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Study Finds Working Final Month of Pregnancy as Bad as Smoking

And yet another study to remind moms-to-be that America’s maternity leave laws suck donkey booty and need a major overhaul for the sake of our children’s health and a new mom’s recovery and sanity: researchers say that working during your final month of pregnancy is as harmful as smoking.

The research, performed by the University of Essex, showed that just like lighting up, working late into pregnancy leads to newborns that are a half pound smaller than infants whose mothers quit work between their sixth and eighth months of pregnancy. The research, which sampled about 30,000 mothers across three different surveys, including one from the U.S., also showed even more pronounced results for women over age 24 and those with lower levels of education, who were most likely to do more physically demanding work.

Prof. Marco Francesconi, one of the authors of the study, offered this pearl of wisdom: the government should consider incentives for employers to offer more flexible maternity leave to women who might need a break before, rather than after, their babies are born.

“We know low birth weight is a predictor of many things that happen later, including lower chances of completing school successfully, lower wages and higher mortality,” Francesconi said. “We need to think seriously about parental leave, because—as this study suggests—the possible benefits of taking leave flexibly before the birth could be quite high.”

Problem is, not enough of us here in America have bosses who give a damn like that. Those of us who are fortunate enough to work full-time gigs where we can tack on sick and vacation days to the six weeks worth of unpaid maternity leave guaranteed under federal law mostly save that time for when the baby is born, so that we can bond with our children and recuperate from the trauma of child birth. But all-too-many of us—particularly women of color who toil in part-time positions at the secretary desks, factories, fast food restaurants and malls of the American labor market—don’t even have the six unpaid weeks…

Read more: My Brown Baby


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