Giving birth and returning to work: the impact of work-family conflict on women's health after childbirth

Ann Epidemiol. 2007 Oct;17(10):791-8. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2007.05.002. Epub 2007 Aug 24.


Purpose: Since 1970, women of childbearing age have increasingly participated in the workforce. However, literature on work-family conflict has not specifically addressed the health of postpartum women. This study examined the relationship between work-family conflict and mental and physical health of employed mothers 11 weeks after childbirth.

Methods: Employed women, 18 years and older, were recruited while in the hospital for childbirth (N = 817; 71% response rate). Mental and physical health at 11 weeks postpartum was measured using SF-12 version 2. General linear models estimated the associations between the independent variables and health. A priori causal models and directed acyclic graphs guided selection of confounding variables.

Results: Analyses revealed that high levels of work interference with family were associated with significantly lower mental health scores. Medium and high levels of family interference with work revealed a dose-response relationship resulting in significantly worse mental health scores. Coworker support was strongly and positively associated with better physical health.

Conclusions: Work-family conflict was negatively associated with mental health but not significantly associated with physical health. Availability of social support may relieve the burden women can experience when balancing work roles and family obligations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Employment*
  • Family Conflict*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Middle Aged
  • Minnesota
  • Parental Leave
  • Pregnancy
  • Women's Health*
  • Work Schedule Tolerance*