When I was waddling through the L.A. Times newsroom last fall very pregnant, the issue that weighed most on me had little to do with my actual baby bump. It was whether I could afford to take all the time I needed to bond with and care for my daughter in her very early development and still support my family financially.
When it comes to maternity leave, the U.S. is by no means a leader.
That blessed time off from work when parents learn and stumble through all of those unbelievably unnatural "natural instincts" varies greatly from country to country. Canadians can get up to 50 weeks of leave at up to 45% of pay. The Danes and Serbs can take 52 weeks at full pay. The Swedes offer the most paid time off, 60 weeks at 80% of pay. (More in the infographic below.)
Meanwhile, in the United States, there is no formal national leave policy.
The U.S. is the last member among the 34-country Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that does not mandate some sort of maternity or paternity leave.
Human Rights Watch in a 2011 report expounded on the negative impact of the lack of paid leave: Among other problems, the group said "scarce or no paid leave contributed to delaying babies' immunizations, postpartum depression and other health problems, and caused mothers to give up breastfeeding early."