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Ann Fam Med. 2007 Nov-Dec;5(6):519-27.

Mothers' health and work-related factors at 11 weeks postpartum.

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  • 1School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn, USA.



Many new mothers return to work soon after childbirth. This study examines personal and work-related factors associated with the postpartum health of employed women 11 weeks after childbirth.


Using a prospective cohort design, we recruited 817 Minnesota mothers into the study while they were hospitalized for childbirth in 2001. Telephone interviews were conducted at 5 and 11 weeks postpartum. Eligible women were 18 years or older, employed, and spoke English and gave birth to a singleton infant. Multivariate models using instrumental variables (2-stage least squares) were used to estimate personal and employment characteristics associated with women's physical and mental health and postpartum symptoms.


At 11 weeks postpartum, 661 participants (81% of enrollees) completed a full interview, and 50% of participants had returned to work. On average, women reported 4.1 (SD 3.2) childbirth-related symptoms, most frequently fatigue (43%). Factors significantly associated with better health outcomes included better preconception health, the absence of prenatal mood problems, more control over work and home activities, more social support at work and home, and less job stress.


The findings suggest postpartum women need to be evaluated regarding their fatigue levels and mental and physical symptoms. Women whose fatigue or postpartum symptoms limit daily role function may find it helpful to have health care clinicians counsel them on strategies to decrease job stress, increase social support at work and home, and certify their use of intermittent family and medical leave to help them manage their symptoms.

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