Campus News

Assistant professor discusses mental health in working mothers

Heather Padilla, assistant professor in health promotion and behavior in the College of Public Health, spoke with Medindia about her recent research into working mothers’ mental health.

Conditions such as postpartum depression and generalized anxiety disorder affect up to one in five women after having a child. The incidence of mental health conditions can be partially attributed to how a company works with a mother to come back to work.

While many companies have maternity leave and other options for mothers, there are fewer resources to help the transition back to work following a period of absence. Padilla said “return to work” often refers to those who have been ill or injured and are coming back to the office.

“There are return to work programs and, in some cases, a very systematic process to assess an employee’s capability and adjust their job responsibilities to help their transition back because the research shows that there are positive benefits to coming back to the workplace after an injury or an illness, but there’s a balance,” said Padilla. “I don’t know that we have those same conversations about the return to work after you’ve had a baby even though we treat pregnancy very much as a disability and illness in the U.S. workplace.”

The study says that co-worker support and overall company support can make the transition for mothers going back to work smoother and less likely to interfere with a working mom’s mental health. By showing that a mother is not alone, a company can have a positive impact on their employees and support women who want to continue working after having a child.