Medicine Cabinet
Reiner W. Gloor

THE bill to increase maternity leave from 60 days to 100 days was approved on its third and final reading at the Senate on Jan. 18, with a vote of 19-0.

Senate Bill No. 2982 — or the “Expanded Maternity Leave Law of 2015” — aims to lengthen the current 60-day maternity leave to meet the 98-day minimum requirement of the International Labor Organization. This bill applies to all female employees working in both the government and private sector.

This is great news for mothers everywhere in the Philippines as there are many studies that prove that encouraging maternity leave, even from the last month of pregnancy and well into the postpartum period, may foster better outcomes for both mother and child.

There is one study from the University of California Berkeley where they found that women who took a leave in the ninth month of pregnancy were 73% less likely to have a Caesarean section than those who worked right up to delivery. This same study also revealed that women who came back to work immediately after delivery were significantly less likely to establish breast-feeding within the first month.

It is well known that Caesarean deliveries are associated with longer hospital stays, risks of surgical complications, and longer recovery times for mothers who undergo this procedure.

And, of course, breast-feeding has long been established to have many health benefits for babies. Breast-fed babies are less likely to catch pneumonia, colds, and other viral illnesses. The longer a baby is breast-fed also equates to a reduced risk in the baby’s chances of developing some childhood cancers, and chronic conditions such as type I diabetes, celiac disease and Crohn’s disease. Research has also shown that breast-fed babies have a better antibody response to vaccines than formula-fed babies.

There are also many benefits for mothers who breast-feed. Women who are pregnant and lactating actually absorb calcium more efficiently, lowering their risk of developing postmenopausal osteoporosis. Breast-feeding also burns calories, helping aid women in losing the weight they put on during pregnancy. Plus, oxytocin is released when women breast-feed and this helps the uterus contract and reduce postdelivery blood loss. Breast-feeding helps the uterus return to its normal size more quickly.

Breast-feeding a baby around the clock also causes a delay in ovulation and menstruation. The release of prolactin from breast-feeding keeps estrogen and progesterone at bay, hence the pause in ovulation. Prolactin will drop eventually over the course of several months and periods do return, but this provides a welcome break for many women.

These are all benefits that may not be enjoyed if we force our mothers to go back to the workforce too soon. Increasing maternity leave to 100 days increases the opportunity for both mother and baby to bond. There are also financial benefits. Mothers can save on money they would otherwise use on formula if they are given the opportunity to establish breast-feeding with their babies. Healthier moms, and babies that are able to breast-feed and become healthier, also mean families can save on money that would have been spent on medical costs.

It is great that our government is supporting the country’s mothers by providing this longer 100-day maternity leave benefit. With this bill — if passed into law — working women will be granted 100 days of fully paid maternity leave and an additional 30-day leave without pay, if requested. The cost of pay for mothers while on leave should be carried by SSS or PhilHealth. And, in case the bill does not pass, these are benefits which can be negotiated in collective bargaining agreements or directly between employees and employers.

A private sector employee who has completed at least three months of her SSS contributions in the 12-month period immediately preceding the semester of her childbirth shall be paid her daily maternity benefit computed based on her average monthly salary credit for 100 days. The bill also protects an employee’s security of tenure and ensures this will not be affected by her maternity leave.

The bill provides mothers with “ample transition time to regain health and overall wellness as well as to assume their maternal roles before resuming full-time work.”

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