Many Women Struggle With Challenge of a Newborn

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter
Tuesday, August 5, 2008; 12:00 AM

TUESDAY, Aug. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Many new mothers in the United States struggle with chronic emotional and physical problems, often with little or no support from their husbands or partners, all the while trying to meet the needs of their newborns, and in some cases the pressure to return to work, a new report finds.

"Mothers of young children in the United States are in a rather untenable situation," said Carol Sakala, an author of the report and director of programs for Childbirth Connection, a national not-for-profit organization that works to improve the quality of maternity care.

"Mothers are so isolated in our society. There is not an appreciation for the extent to which this is a very challenging time for this large population," she said.

The report, calledNew Mothers Speak Out, National Survey Results Highlight Women's Postpartum Experiences, surveyed 903 new mothers, ages 18 to 45, who gave birth in 2005.

Among the findings: After six months, 43 percent of the women still felt stressed; 40 percent reported problems controlling their weight; 34 percent had trouble sleeping; 26 percent had no sexual desire; and 24 percent suffered from chronic backaches.

During the first two months after giving birth, 44 percent of the women said that their physical or emotional condition interfered with taking care of their baby.

What's more, many women didn't feel they got the support they needed from their spouse or partner, with 73 percent saying they provided more of the child care than their husband or partner.

Even the 49 percent of women who had full-time jobs said they provided most of the child care, with just 3 percent of husbands or partners providing most of the child care, according to the report.

Twenty percent of the women with a husband or partner said their mate provided little, if any, affectionate, emotional, enjoyment or practical support.

"We were surprised at how quickly the women were back to employment -- over 80 percent by 12 weeks postpartum," Sakala said. "They didn't get the maternity leave that they wanted. They felt they had to be back at work earlier than they wanted. They weren't able to achieve their breast-feeding goals.

"They are trying to do the right thing, but they are not getting the support they need in terms of time to recover and the financial support they need to be at home with their babies," Sakala added.

Just 40 percent of working mothers said they received paid maternity leave benefits. Among those receiving paid maternity leave, 50 percent said they received 100 percent of their pay. Among full-time workers, 23 percent got at least six weeks of full pay, and 38 percent received six weeks at half pay.

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