1 Out of 4 New Mothers Are Returning to Work Less Than Two Weeks After Giving Birth

Women are forcing themselves to shorten or skip out entirely on maternity leave because the United States doesn't enforce paid maternity leave policy – and a new analysis proves it.

The Huffington Post reports that a new analysis of data from the Department of Labor finds that nearly 1 in 4 new mothers surveyed by the department in 2012 returned to work within just two weeks of having a new baby.

Researchers at Abt Associates conducted the analysis for an investigative feature in In These Times.

Researchers analyzed a survey of 2,852 workers who took leave in 2012, focusing on the 93 women who took time off to care for a new baby. According to The Huffington Post, of those women, nearly 12 percent took a week or less; another 11 percent took between one and two weeks off, according to the analysis.

"Talking to women in this situation was just heartbreaking," journalist Sharon Lerner, author of the In These Times piece and a senior fellow at Demos, told reporters on a conference call Tuesday afternoon.

A full-time waitress working more than 60 hours a week told Lerner that when her son was just 4 weeks old, she would come home exhausted and sleep with one hand on her baby because that's the only connection she could get, according to The Huffington Post.

Yet the analysis found that college graduates are taking longer maternity leave. Eighty percent of the women who took at least six weeks leave had a degree. Only 54 percent of women without a degree were able to do so.

"The highest-paid workers are most likely to have [paid leave]," Lerner wrote in the piece, according to The Huffington Post. "More than 1 in 5 of the top 10 percent of earners are getting paid family leave, compared to 1 in 20 in the bottom quartile."

Larger companies that hire "mostly well-educated white-collar works," such as Adobe and Microsoft, have improved their maternity leave policy to be longer and paid.

According to the Huffington Post, the U.S. is the only major country on the globe that offers no paid time off for new mothers.

New mothers, who return to work shortly after giving birth, and their families can face economic, emotional and physical consequences

NEXT: Adobe Expands Maternity Leave to 26 Weeks »

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