Postpartum Depression and the Working Woman

Postpartum Depression and the Working Woman

When the workforce is comprised of at least 52% women (US Department of Labor, 2015) and 78% of those women are of childbearing age (US Department of Labor, 2016), one would wonder how motherhood in the workplace is managing. One area of concern for women is returning to work while still suffering the symptoms of postpartum depression (PPD). Many women are required to return back to work regardless of PPD symptoms due to financial reasons or lack of additional time granted by FMLA laws (Dagher, McGovern, Dowd, & Lundberg, 2011). PPD is an incapacitating mental disorder that can affect up to 20% of new mothers within the first year of birth (Dagher et al., 2009; Werner, Miller, Osborne, Kuzava, & Monk, 2014).  This number may not include the women who do not report their PPD symptoms or go undiagnosed. Many women fear asking for help due to stigma or concern of repercussions (Babatunde & Moreno-Leguizamom, 2012; Selix & Goyal, 2015). Issues that can occur in the workplace as a result of PPD is absenteeism and low work performance (Selix & Goyal, 2015; Ortega & Reio, 2016).  Career progression for women can be stunted by having children in general (Aisenbrey, Evertsson, & Grunow, 2009; Miller, 2011), but adding the complication of PPD symptoms further causes concern for women to be able to progress in careers and leadership positions.

Research is needed to find methods of supporting working women with PPD.  Current research shows that women who feel supported within their work community by managers and peers and have flexible work schedules fare best (Shepherd-Banigan, Bell, Basu, Booth-LaForce, & Harris, 2015: Ortego & Reio, 2016). For women with PPD, best practices need to be put into place to allow women to continue to flourish in the workplace.  



Aisenbrey, S., Evertsson, M., & Grunow, D. (2009). Is there a career penalty for mothers' time out? A comparison of Germany, Sweden, and the United States. Social Forces, 88(2), 573-606. Retrieved from

Babatunde, T., & Moreno-Leguizamon, C. J. (2012). Daily and cultural issues of postnatal depression in African women immigrants in south east London: Tips for health professionals. Nursing Research and Practice, 2012, 1-15. doi:10.1155/2012/181640

Dagher, R. K., McGovern, P. M., Dowd, B., & Lundberg, U. (2011). Postpartum depressive symptoms and the combined load of paid and unpaid work: A longitudinal analysis. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 84(7), 735-743. doi:10.1007/s00420-011-0626-7

Miller, A. (2011). The effects of motherhood timing on career path. Journal of Popular Economics, 24, 1071-1100. doi:10.1007/s00148-009-0296-x

Ortega, C., & Reio, T. G. (2016). Interventions for women with postpartum depression symptoms. Human Resources Development, 15(2), 131-150. doi:10.1177/1534484316641523

Selix, N. W., & Goyal, D. (2015). Postpartum depression among working women: A call for practice and policy change. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 11(9), 897–902. doi:10.1016/j.nurpra.2015.07.003.

Shepherd-Banigan, M., Bell, J., Basu, A., Booth-LaForce, C., & Harris, J. (2015). Workplace stress and working from home influence depressive symptoms among employed women with young children. International Society of Behavioral Medication, 23, 102-111. doi:10.1007/s12529-015-9482-2

US Department of Labor. (2015). Women in the labor force: A databook. Retrieved from

US Department of Labor. (2016). Latest annual data. Retrieved from

Werner, W., Miller, M., Osborne, L., Kuzava, S., & Monk, C. (2014). Preventing postpartum depression: Review and recommendations. Arch Women's Mental Health, 18, 41-60. doi:10.1007/s00737-014-0475-y



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Robyn Flint
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