|| DukeMedNews || Research on Mothers’ Stress Levels

Suggested lead: Sending the kids back to school might help you feel a little more relaxed, but that stress you’re feeling will probably stay with you. Tom Britt has more.

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It is widely accepted that having a child changes a woman. Studies at Duke University Medical Center show it’s not just psychological. There is a stress-related hormone in a woman’s body that elevates on the birth of the first child and doesn’t drop until long after the kids have grown up and left home. Duke psychiatrist Dr. Redford Williams says it’s called cortisol, and it ‘s elevated in working moms 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“We think it’s because the stress associated with being a mother and having child care responsibilities — while most active only when you’re with the kids during the evening hours — is still always there, even when you’re at work and apparently even when you’re asleep.”

Dr. Williams also says working moms tend to put in 20 hours a week more than their husbands, something called the second-shift phenomenon. So a helpful husband and father can go a long way toward reducing the stress for the working mother. I’m Tom Britt.

Williams says a lot of working mothers get caught up in what is referred to as the “second-shift phenomenon.”

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“It’s been shown that women who work outside the home work on average 20 hours more a week than their husbands do. If we could get the husbands to take on a fairer share of the workload at home this might also make things better.”