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J Am Board Fam Med. 2009 Sep-Oct;22(5):498-506. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2009.05.090010.

Characteristics of mother-provider interactions surrounding postpartum return to work.

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Department of Family and Community Medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27157-1084, USA.



Many mothers with infants work full-time, yet little is known about communication between women and health care providers regarding returning to work (RTW).


Survey data were obtained from a community-based sample of mothers returning to full-time employment within 4 months postpartum. Bivariate analyses (chi(2) and independent sample t tests) and multivariate logistic regressions were specified.


Eighty-three percent of mothers believed prenatal providers should discuss RTW, yet only 60% had such a discussion; 58% discussed RTW with their infants' provider. Black women (odds ratio, 2.6) and women in poverty (odds ratio, 3.6) more often reported having an RTW discussion with a prenatal provider whereas mothers with college degrees or higher (odds ratio, 2.7) more often had RTW discussions with their infant's provider. RTW discussions occurred < or =3 times and were felt to be only somewhat useful. RTW discussions infrequently centered on maternal health (19.5%) or infant health or development (35.5%).


Women want providers to initiate RTW discussions. Providers should be aware that race, poverty status, and level of maternal education impact a mother's odds of having an RTW discussion. Additional research is required to further delineate the content of RTW discussions and to determine the clinical value of RTW discussions.

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