working motherBecause there are never enough ways to tell pregnant women that they’re doing it all wrong and ruining their children for life, a new study has shown that working during your final month of pregnancy is as harmful as smoking. Just like lighting up, working late into pregnancy leads to newborns that are a half a pound smaller, on average, than infants whose mothers quit work between months 6 and 8.

The research, performed by the University of Essex, showed more pronounced results for those who are over 24 and those with lower levels of education. Academics believed that the education level difference proved that it was more physically demanding jobs that made it difficult for pregnant women.

In the United States, women are still fighting to get decent maternity leave. Most just use their vacation time because they can’t afford to take unpaid leave, which is the only thing protected by the American government. Even then, women still struggle against stigma for taking their actual leave. I cannot imagine asking companies to let women take their last month of pregnancy off as well.

Personally, I took the two weeks before my daughter’s birth off work, but only because my blood pressure was getting dangerously high. I had to have a doctor’s note, which makes it sound a little like high school gym class. I remember my boss and co-workers talking about what a “luxury” my bedrest was.

In my personal experience, most women work straight up until their delivery day. If your water hasn’t broken, it seems appropriate to show up at the office. The New York Times recently ran a story about multiple women who barely took any maternity leave at all. They frequently mentioned answering email and taking work calls up until the second that delivery happened.

In some ways, I would love to see this study invite conversation about the time off necessary to have a child and why it’s so important. Then on the other hand, there are a million studies warning pregnant women what they should or shouldn’t do. Every month, we hear that we can have alcohol or that we can’t. We hear that we need to work out and that we shouldn’t. We’re warned about sushi and soft cheese and hair dye. Pregnant women cease to be humans and start to be walking wombs who shouldn’t exist outside of their childbearing duties.

What do you all think about this study? What do you think about the idea of pregnant women staying home for the last month of pregnancy. While it sounds a little idyllic, is it possible in our 24/7 work culture?

(Photo: RTimages/Shutterstock)