Lifestyle & Belief

Pregnant women take 2 months sick leave on average, Norwegian study suggests


The morning sun illuminates detail in Damien Hirst's bronze sculpture of a pregnant woman on October 17, 2012 in Ilfracombe, England.


Matt Cardy

Three quarters of pregnant women need an average of two months sick leave from work during their pregnancies, a Norwegian study has found.

Flexible work conditions could help reduce this, however, Britain's Daily Mail reported, citing researchers from the Stavanger University Hospital.

The study, whose findings were published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, followed 2918 women in Norway over 18 months.

It found 35 percent of them cited fatigue and sleep issues as the main reasons for taking sick leave, followed by pelvic pain and nausea or vomiting.

Just 2.1 percent said they had called in sick because they were suffering from anxiety or depression.

Sick leave varied according to the trimester, however the average amount of time off work was eight weeks, and the majority needed between four and 16 weeks.

Science Daily quoted Signe Dorheim, a co-author of the paper, as saying: 

"We found that a large number of pregnant women take time off work as sick leave. The factors associated with sick leave varied according to the trimester of pregnancy but some of these factors are not necessarily caused by pregnancy alone. Women who suffer from work-related fatigue, such as insomnia, are likely to require more time off, especially during late pregnancy."

The study suggested that the amount of sick leave taken by pregnant women could be reduced by employers offering flexible work adjustments.

On average, women offered flexible work options took seven days less sick leave than those who were not offered the same options.

John Thorp, a BJOG senior editor stressed that pregnancy was a normal physiological state, and added:

"This study was conducted in Norway, where sick leave entitlements allow workers to receive very good compensation for time taken due to illness, so this may impact the findings. However, the factors that affect pregnant women in the workplace are universal and this study shows a clear link between working conditions and the duration of sick leave, which highlights the potential benefits for employers to have a support system in place." 

According to the US Office of Personnel Management, "a pregnant employee who must be absent from work at some point before giving birth for her own health or that of her unborn child is entitled to use sick leave."

There is "no limitation" on the amount of accrued sick leave the employee can take, it adds.

The OPM offers a fact sheet entitled Leave and Work Scheduling Flexibilities Available.

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