Viral photo of a paper plate helps explain why women need maternity leave

Labor of Love - Lancaster, PA / Facebook

Any mom who has gone back to work after welcoming a new baby knows how difficult it can be, especially depending on how soon you went back after giving birth and whether your time off was paid.

Unfortunately, unlike in other wealthy countries, paid maternity leave is not guaranteed in the United States.

While the Family and Medical Leave Act gives eligible workers 12 weeks of leave following childbirth, the time off is unpaid. The need for paid parental leave is well-documented and, indeed, the U.S. is the only developed nation that does not mandate paid leave for new moms.

Now, a viral photo of a paper plate is demonstrating exactly why maternity leave is so important.

The photo, posted by Labor of Love – Lancaster, PA, a Facebook page run by Laura Fry, a mom and birth advocate, shows a dinner plate with a tape measure across it, indicating it’s about 8.5 inches in diameter:

In her caption, Fry explains the significance of the photo.

“22 centimeters or 8.6 inches. That is the exact diameter of a paper plate,” she wrote. “It is also the average diameter of a placenta. After a baby is born, mothers are told to take it easy for at least 4-6 weeks. There are good reasons for that! One of those reasons is that after the baby is born, mothers are left with a wound on the inside of their uterus where the placenta was attached. That wound will take at least 4-6 weeks to completely heal.”

Fry goes on to say that during this time, it’s essential that new moms rest, as they are still at risk for infection and hemorrhaging, even if their labor and delivery did not have any complications.

new mom photo
Getty Images | Dondi Tawatao

Fry’s measurement checks out. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, the “usual term placenta” is about 8.6 inches in diameter.

She later edited the post to make it clear that she’s not a medical professional, but that her point remains that women should not overdo it during this sensitive time, writing, “This is only meant to be common sense advice to take it easy. I do not mean for women to lay around for 4 weeks not moving at all. Listen to your body and take care of yourself! Talk to your doctor or midwife if you have any questions.”


Fry’s post struck a nerve, as it has been shared more than 15,000 times since it was posted on March 15.

When women are forced to go back to work too soon after having a baby, they obviously can’t get the rest that Fry encourages.

Even if women are eligible to take unpaid leave, many of them cannot afford it.

paid family leave photo
Getty Images | Spencer Platt

There is evidence that paid leave has numerous benefits for both children and mothers.

In a review of 20 studies on the health impact of parental leave on parent and child, CNN concluded that paid parental leave can have a major positive influence on the health of both children and mothers.


Some of those benefits include reduced infant mortality, increased likelihood of newborns getting vaccines, as well as less incidence of depression and generally better mental health for moms, a benefit that also has long-term impacts.

In addition to the health benefits, paid parental leave is also better for the economy and women’s careers.

When new moms have to take unpaid leave, it can often lead to debt and financial insecurity.


Paid leave can help companies retain top talent and that, in turn, increases women’s wages.

What do you think about paid maternity leave?

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About the Author
Kate Streit
Kate Streit lives in Chicago. She enjoys stand-up comedy, mystery novels, memoirs, summer and pumpkin spice anything.

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