Gillian Anderson Says She Went Back to Work on 'X-Files' Just 10 Days After Giving Birth

One in four women living in the U.S. return to work within two weeks of childbirth.

Gillian Anderson on Season 2 of 'X-Files' in 1994.
(Image credit: Alamy)

Gillian Anderson is opening up about her return to work mere days after giving birth.

On Wednesday, April 3, while appearing on NBC's TODAY show, the actress revealed that she went back to work on the set of her hit television show X-Files just 10 days after giving birth to her first child, Piper, in 1994.

"If I didn’t feel so guilty that I got pregnant in the first season, I might have taken better care of myself and been more thoughtful about what I needed for my best interest at the time," the actress told TODAY co-anchor Savannah Guthrie.

"But I think I was so wrapped up in: 'I almost got fired, I’ll mess this up, I’ll do whatever they say.' So yeah, 10 days after a C-section," she added. "But we’re still talking about it, right? It’s interesting. Whatever it was, 30 years ago."

According to the Paid Leave US (PL+US), an advocacy group, one in four women living in the United States return to work just two weeks after childbirth. To date, the United States is the only high-income nation that does not mandate paid maternity, paternity, family or medical leave.

Gillian Anderson on Season 2 of 'X-Files' in 1994.

Gillian Anderson on Season 2 of 'X-Files' in 1994.

(Image credit: Alamy)

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends people take at least six weeks off work after giving birth.

Unfortunately, that is an impossibility for many without the government mandating paid family leave, especially for those living at or below the poverty line. Of the one in four women who return to work two weeks post-childbirth, three-quarters cite financial struggle as the reason why.

Returning to work too early postpartum can have dire consequences. As far back as 1980, one study referred to the postpartum period as the "fourth trimester," in part because of " the intense physical and emotional changes that arise during this timeframe."

"In the first two months after giving birth, mothers commonly report stress, exhaustion, sore breasts, backaches, and weight control issues, itching and numbness at the incision site present additional problems for women who had cesarean births," the study states, adding that the postpartum period covers one full calendar year after childbirth.

Another 2020 study found that even women who have experienced complications during their pregnancy are returning to work too early, negatively impacting their mental and physical health.

Gillian Anderson attends the world premiere of "Scoop" at The Curzon Mayfair on March 27, 2024 in London, England.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In the same interview on TODAY, Anderson discussed her ongoing efforts to empower women, including her new book, Want, which includes anonymous letters penned by women around the world.

"It’s not just inspirational quotes we say to ourselves in the mirror," Guthrie said to the actress. "You’re saying women should be thinking about what they want."

"And at the end of the day, probably what stands out the most is the degree to which women struggle to ask for what they want, both at work, in a relationship, and in the bedroom," Anderson responded. "And so, it’s worth continuing to talk about."

Danielle Campoamor is an award-winning freelance writer covering mental health, reproductive justice, abortion access, maternal mental health, politics, celebrity, and feminist issues. She has been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NBC, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, InStyle, Playboy, Teen Vogue, Glamour, The Daily Beast, and more.