Pregnant women face feeling invisible at work before going on maternity leave and having difficulties reintegrating when they return, a new report claims.
Dr Lynne Millward of the University of Surrey followed eight first-time pregnant women aged between 25 and 40 and found that all of them said they began to feel like a disposable resource at work as their pregnancy continued.
The women began to feel invisible to their organisation as a valued employee, often as a result of practical decisions such as reducing the women's responsibilities in preparation for maternity cover.
When the women returned to work, they found it difficult to re-establish themselves as an employee, with one woman feeling that she had "lost all the personal credit" she had worked to build up, the report stated.
The women said that they felt they had to prove their continued commitment to their job, although those who had kept in touch with work socially or psychologically found the experience less difficult.
Dr Millward said: "It may be important to help women to retain a sense of organisation membership during their leave period.
"Some women may not wish to be interrupted by work matters during their period of maternity leave while others may like to keep at least one finger in the pie."