The majority of female midwives work part-time, but more than half of them have fewer than 10 hours a week to devote to caring for babies, a study published in the Lancet medical journal suggests.
A study of more than 500 midwives in Sweden found that just 19% of women with no qualifications were in full-time care, while 70% of the women who did have qualifications were working fewer than 20 hours a month.
Women who were employed full-timers were more likely to be in full time care than their less-qualified counterparts, the study found.
The researchers said the data was consistent with a growing number of studies showing that full-term care was more likely for women with limited qualifications.
A new government plan to create a full-day nursery would be funded through the National Health Service (NHS), with women working part- time in an independent care home.
It has been estimated that women working full- time at least 40 hours a year will have an extra $300 in childcare costs in their pocket by 2023, the researchers found.
It is not clear whether full- day care would provide the same level of protection against infection or complications as home care.
But the findings highlight the need for women to start working part time as early as possible, said Dr Laura Stoll, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Oxford.
“It’s a lot more likely that women will end up doing less than they were expecting to in a nursing home,” she said.
“We’re in a position where a lot of women are struggling to get out of this crisis.”