Troubling connection between workplace pregnancy discrimination and health of mothers, babies

(U.S.) – A new study suggests that perceived pregnancy discrimination indirectly relates to increased levels of postpartum depressive symptoms for mothers and health concerns for babies.

The study, Examining the Effects of Perceived Pregnancy Discrimination on Mother and Baby Health, was led by Baylor University and published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. The study also suggests pregnancy discrimination in the workplace could also influence lower birth weights, lower gestational ages, and increased number of doctor visits for babies.

Researchers surveyed 252 pregnant employees over the course of two studies. Reports indicate they measured perceived pregnancy discrimination, perceived stress, demographics, and postpartum depressive symptoms. A second study then included measurements of babies’ health outcomes, including gestational age, Apgar score, birth weight, and visits to the doctor.

Pregnancy discrimination is defined as the unfavorable treatment of women at work due to pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.

Additionally, researchers indicated over the last 10 years there have been more than 50,000 pregnancy discrimination claim filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Fair Employment Practices Agencies in the United States.

According to an article on this topic originally published by Medical X Press, a few steps managers can take include:

  • Providing flexible schedules.
  • Keeping information channels open and the employee in the loop, specifically with regards to work-family benefits and expectations leading up to leave/returning from leave.
  • Accommodating prenatal appointments.
  • Helping to plan maternity leave arrangements.
  • Normalizing breastfeeding in the workplace.

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