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Open Access Research article

The evaluation of a health education campaign on the use of leave from work during pregnancy

Giuseppe Mastrangelo1, John H Lange2, Emanuela Fadda1, Ornella Agostini3, Roberto Agnesi4, Andrea Bardin1 and Luca Cegolon15*

Author Affiliations

1 Padua University, Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Padua, Italy

2 Envirosafe Training and Consultants, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

3 Provincial Directorate for Work, Venice, Italy

4 Health and Safety at Work Service, Veneto PCT 16, Padua, Italy

5 Imperial College London, School of Public Health, St. Mary's Campus, London, UK

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:694  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-694

Published: 12 November 2010



The Italian Protective Maternity Legislation allows a woman to apply for early maternity leave from work during pregnancy if she is affected by health problems (option A) or if her working conditions are incompatible with pregnancy (option B). A community based health education program, implemented between 1995 to 1998 in North Eastern Italy, provided counseling (by a team of gynecologists, pediatricians, geneticists, psychologists and occupational physicians), and an information leaflet detailing the risks during pregnancy and the governmental benefits available to expectant mothers. This leaflet was distributed to women who were under occupational medical surveillance and to women attending any healthcare office and outpatient department and was also mailed to women working at home as shoemakers.

The effectiveness of this intervention has been evaluated in this investigation using an evidence based approach.


A quasi-experimental design was adopted, applying several outcome measurements before (1989 to 1994) and after (1999 to 2005) the intervention. The outcome (ratio B/A) is the number of women receiving approval for B (circumstance where the pregnant woman is employed to undertake activities forbidden under the Article 7 of Law 151/2001, and it is impossible to change her duties) to those receiving approval for A (risky pregnancy due to personal medical conditions, Article 17 of the same Law). A linear regression coefficient (for B/A against years) was obtained separately for time periods "before" (1989-94) and "after" (1999-2005) the intervention program. The two regression coefficients were compared using a t-test.


The trend over-time for the ratio B/A was steady before the initial intervention (y = 0.008x - 16.087; t = 2.09; p > 0.05) then increased considerably (y = 0.0426x - 84.89; t = 19.55; p < 0.001) in coincidence with the start of the education campaign. There was a significant difference between the two regression coefficients (t = 7.58; p < 0.001).


From a bureaucratic perspective Option B is far more complicated than A. In fact it implies an active approach involving an arrangement between the claimant and the employer, who has to certify to the relevant Authority that the woman's working conditions are incompatible with pregnancy. The increasing number of women availing of option B, as recommended, therefore suggests the suitability of such educational campaign(s).