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Researchers at Stanford University looked at the impact of a law in Sweden that allows dads to take up to a month off work within the first year of their child's birth. Fathers can take the days all at once or intermittently during the year.
After the law took effect in 2012, the need for hospitalizations, medical visits, antibiotics, and antianxiety pills declined significantly among new moms, the study found. Researchers concluded that the dads' ability to take time off work when their partners needed help allowed moms to:
- Better recover from pregnancy and labor
- Seek medical care before health issues escalated
- Cope with the demands of caring for a newborn
The researchers said that the person helping doesn't have to be a father. Same-sex partners and other relatives such as grandparents can also provide needed support, they said.
How much time should partners pitch in?
Many of the Swedish dads only took a few days off, not a full month, yet moms still benefited. Just being there to help their partners on the days when things got particularly tough created a health boost for new moms, the study authors concluded.
Meanwhile, another recent report concluded that men need to spend an additional 50 minutes a day doing housework and caring for children, and women should do 50 minutes less a day, in order for the burden of housekeeping and childcare to be more equal. Currently, women spend much more time on caregiving and domestic chores than men, the global report found.
More than 65 percent of women surveyed in the global report, including those in the United States, agreed moms would have better physical health if dads took at least two weeks paternity leave. Almost three-quarters of women said it would benefit moms' mental health.
So how do you intentionally work with your partner on sharing childcare and household duties more equally? It's not always easy. Here are two articles with tips on how to get your partner more involved:
- Ending the chore wars: How to get your mate to help on the home front
- Dividing childcare and housework duties with your partner
Finally, there are additional ways to find support, even if your partner is unavailable, unable, or unwilling to help out more, or if you're a single parent. Check out these ideas on how to strengthen your support system.
Since America lacks a nationwide paid parental leave policy, many dads don't have the option of taking time off work after the birth of a child. Some experts believe that lack of parental leave may be one reason maternal mortality rates are so high in the U.S. compared to other developed countries.
Nevertheless, there are paternity leave options. Here's an explainer for dads on leave options they may be eligible for.
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