Quitting work two months earlier than your due date sounds like a fantasy to many moms, but new research suggests that stopping work early could be beneficial to your unborn baby. While you might not have a choice because of your company's maternity leave policy, this study could potentially impact the standard amount of maternity leave that's granted to U.S. women in the future.
Researchers at the University of Essex in England found that mothers who continued to work past eighth months of pregnancy were doing their babies as much harm as they would if they were smoking cigarettes.
The main effect of working late into pregnancy is low birth weight, which studies have already shown can increase health risks and delay newborn development. The babies of mothers who worked into their ninth months of pregnancy were 1/2 pound smaller on average than the babies of moms who stopped working between their sixth and eighth months.
Mothers with fewer levels of education were found to benefit the most from stopping work early, probably because they were doing more physically demanding work, which was linked to the lower birth weights. Older mothers were also more prone to the effect, as mothers under 24 years old were unaffected.
However, some experts believe that many of the lower birth weights could have been the results of underlying medical conditions, like high blood pressure and other complications.
While you may not be able to take this time off, you might want to consider leaving work earlier than you planned and coming in a bit earlier after delivery – especially if your job involves physical labor. If you're sitting at a desk or performing jobs with relatively low activity levels, you probably don't have much to worry about.