Maternity Leave Benefits Babies, Moms

The earlier and longer you stop working, the better, studies say.

mom working with baby in her lap

How long will your maternity leave be? Your answer might depend on whether or not your pregnancy was planned, says new research from the University of Maryland, finding that women with unintended pregnancies return to work sooner than those with intended pregnancies.

That's a problem considering that researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have found taking maternity leave (before and after birth) to have benefits. Moms who work right up until delivery are more likely to have a C-section, and the longer a new mother delays going back to work, the more likely she is to breastfeed, which has major benefits of its own.

Still, we know that taking off of work can be easier said than done. Maternity benefits are lagging in the United States. Out of 173 countries worldwide, the U.S. is one of only five that doesn't guarantee paid leave to give birth and care for a newborn. The group MomsRising advocates for maternity and paternity leave and other family issues. For more information or to join the group's efforts, visit

As for your immediate work dilemmas, check out our Working Woman's Guide to Pregnancy for advice on maternity leave, returning to work, and more.