Can You Or Your Husband Access FMLA If Needed For Postpartum Depression?

Many of you have asked about the Family Medical Leave Act and how that applies to women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like PPD, as well as their family members (like husbands). I reached out to 9to5, a national organization dedicated to putting working women's issues on the public agenda. Cindia Cameron, who coordinates 9to5's Job Survival Helpline, was kind enough to give us an outline:

Amother with a diagnosed perinatal mood or anxiety disorder like PPD will have access to the legal protections of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act if she meets each of these eligibility standards:

1. She has worked for her current employer for at least one year.
2. Her employer has at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius of her workplace
3. She worked at least 1250 hours in the previous year (approx. 24 hr/s week).

If she does not meet these criteria, she may have FMLA protections under state law, depending on where she lives. (Several states have FMLA laws that apply to employers of 25 or more, for example). There is also the possibility that she may have the protection of a union contract for FMLA leave.

If she meets these criteria, she has access to 12 weeks of leave in any 12 month period. The 12 weeks can be used for any combination of reasons: childbirth, her own illness, that of the child or any other immediate family member. However she chooses to use the leave, the law provides a total of 12 weeks.

What this means is that if she chose to use 8 weeks leave after the child was born, andthen realized that she was suffering from postpartum depression, she would have only 4 weeks left. After 12 weeks, the protections of the federal FMLA end.

At 9to5 we stress that the law provides the minimum. Companies are certainly free to offer more time off (usually unpaid, but there might be access to long-term disability). Even companies that are not required by law to offer FMLA leave often do.

About the father/husband: If he qualifies under the same eligibility standards, he is eligible both for paternity leave (time to bond with the baby after birth) and time to care for the baby or his wife, if he can provide medical certification from a doctor that one or the other needs care due to their illness. He would also have access to a total of 12 weeks in any 12 month period.

Thank you Cindia! Do any of you have further questions about FMLA for her?

Also, click here for more information on PPD and health insurance.

About Katherine Stone

is the creator of this blog, and the founder and executive director of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the 15 most influential patient advocates to follow. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

Tell Us What You Think


  1. We used FMLA when I was going through it. It was a lifesaver because not only was I completely incapacitated but my husband couldn't work either.

  2. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    That's great to hear Marcie! I'm glad it worked for you.

  3. Hi Katherine,
    This is great info! One question re: paternity leave. Would that be in addition to the mom's maternity leave that may have already been used up?

  4. It is important to note that the law also contains a stipulation that if a husband and wife work for the same company, they have access to a COMBINED twelve weeks of leave. Found this out when planning for my maternity leave. My husband and I are employed by the same school district. This came as a surprise to me!

  5. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Thanks for sharing that Gina. Make sure you
    check with your own companies to find out!

  6. What if both husband & wife work for same company? Are they both entitled to there own leave?


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