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Shorter maternity leave can lead to medical problems

Welcoming a new baby is an exciting time for many Colorado families. However, it also happens to be a physically, mentally and emotionally challenging time as people adjust to caring for a new baby. During this time many Colorado women take maternity leave from work in order to make this adjustment period slightly easier. However, under employment laws, Colorado employers do not have to offer paid leave. Therefore, most women only take a short maternity leave.

In order to offer these women some protection, a federal employee rights law -- the Family Medical Leave Act -- provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for new mothers. However, the FMLA only applies to some employees.

While these protections are in place mothers do not always use it. According to a new study seven percent of mothers are back to work after only six weeks of leave and 46 percent are back to work after 12 weeks of leave. By six months post-partum, 87 percent of mothers are back to their jobs. This study also showed that mothers risk increased health problems -- including post-partum depression -- by returning to work so soon.

When to return to work following the birth or adoption of a child is a decision that should be made by the woman and her family. Colorado employers do not have the right to pressure a woman into returning to work. Furthermore, under FMLA, a woman cannot face discrimination for taking family leave or for taking leave during a pregnancy.

Unfortunately, many employers refuse to uphold these rules. In situations where FMLA is not being respected, Colorado employees do have legal rights and may be entitled to compensation. Celebrating the arrival of a new child should be joyous, not filled with worry as a result of an employer's pressure.

Source: Fox News, "Study: Longer maternity leave lowers risk of postpartum depression," Laurie Tarkan, Dec. 13, 2013

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