In Canada, maternity leave can last up to 1 year after giving birth. For some women, there may be associated anxiety with the prospect of having to return to work or school. We investigated the extent to which employment intentions during early postpartum were associated with symptoms of anxiety and whether this association was moderated by perceptions of social support. We used data from the All Our Babies Study, a community based prospective cohort study of pregnant women in Calgary, Alberta, Canada (n=1578). Women completed confidential questionnaires that collected information about their pregnancy, lifestyle, life events, social support, stress, and mental health at three time points: early pregnancy, late pregnancy, and 4 months postpartum. We asked women detailed questions about their intentions of returning to work or school at the 4 month data collection. Women who noted that they would be returning to work or school within 12 months had significantly higher anxiety symptomatology, controlling for SES and baseline anxiety, than women who were not returning to work or school. We classified women into four mutually exclusive categories according to timing of return to work/school and perceived social support in order to examine the buffering hypothesis of social support. The group of women that manifested the most anxiety comprised those with intentions of returning when their infants were <12 months of age AND low perceived social support. These findings have implications for developing targeted strategies to support working mothers.
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