Career worry is keeping pregnant women up at night

Births are down for U.S. teens - way down. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention today announced that the national teen birth rate fell to a record low in 2009, dropping to 39.1 births per 1,000 females from 61.8 births per 1,000 females in 1991. Yet even at that rate, the teen birth rate remains higher in the U.S. than in other countries - a fact that troubles experts, since teen birth is associated with myriad health problems for mother and child. The rate is especially high among black and Hispanic teens. Geography plays a key role too - with teen moms more common in some states than others. Which states have the highest rates? Keep clicking to find out.

When we hear the phrase "ticking clock" applied to a woman's personal life, we usually assume the word "biological" belongs in the middle. But now two recruiters who specialize in finding part-time work for mothers describe another ticking clock -- one related to going back into the workforce after the kids are born.

Women Like Us, a London-based recruiting firm, surveyed 1,554 women to find out how they were approaching their eventual return to work after their children were born. They found that worry about re-entering the workforce starts surprisingly early, and and isn't disposed of easily. Specifically:

-- More than half of women said that worry about their return to work kept them up at night. Some 56% of the women surveyed said that worries about re-entering the workforce was causing them to lose sleep. And since many of these women have young children, you can bet they don't have much extra sleep to give up!

-- The greatest single concern is fitting work and family schedules together. Nearly half of women -- 43% -- said this was a concern. Twelve percent of women were stressed because they didn't know what sort of job they should apply for next, and 9% were worried about the prospect of going on job interviews again.

-- A large share of these women seem to be pretty much consumed by worry. Some 36% say they worry about finding work at least six times a day (once every few hours). An additional 10% say they worry about finding work more than ten times a day.

-- Worry starts early. One in ten of the women surveyed say they first started worrying about returning to work before their children were born, when they were still pregnant.

Says Karen Mattison, the co-founder of Women Like Us:

Many of us have our own internal "ticking career clocks" and the stress surrounding the search for work post-children is clearly keeping many women awake at night. There are so many issues to work through: "Should I go back to my old career, or is it time to start anew? How should I cover the break to have kids on my [resume]? Where do I even begin looking for jobs in today's market?"

Unfortunately, this worry appears to be well-placed, according to research from the Center for Work-Life Policy. In 2009, the Center surveyed 3,420 professional women about their experience taking time off from work for childcare or other reasons. The results, published in May, 2010, showed that.

-- Seventy-three percent of women who take a voluntary timeout from work (whether for childcare or other reasons) have trouble finding a job when they're ready to come back.

-- Women who return to the workforce after a timeout lose an average of 16% of their earning power.

-- Women who return also commonly report a decrease in the level of responsibility given them. A quarter say the job they took after their timeout came with a decrease in management responsibilities. Nearly that many -- 22% -- say they had to step down to a lower job title.

What changes would make it easier for workers -- both men and women -- to take a break from their working lives if their personal situations demanded it?

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    Kimberly Weisul is the co-founder of One Thing New, the free email newsletter for smart, busy women. She was previously Senior Editor at BusinessWeek, responsible for all coverage of entrepreneurship and for launching BusinessWeek SmallBiz, a bimonthly magazine. She is also a freelance writer, editor and editorial consultant.