Examining the effects of perceived pregnancy discrimination on mother and baby health
Over the last decade, more than 50,000 pregnancy discrimination claims were filed in the United States (United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [U.S. EEOC], 2018a). While pregnancy discrimination claims remain prevalent, research examining the effects of pregnancy discrimination on the well-being and health of working mothers and their babies is lacking. As such, we aim to examine the role of perceived pregnancy discrimination in the workplace on health outcomes for mothers and their babies via mother's stress. We draw on the occupational stress literature and medical research to propose that perceived pregnancy discrimination indirectly relates to mother and baby health via the mother's perceived stress. In our first study, we examine the effects of perceived pregnancy discrimination on mothers' postpartum depressive symptoms via perceived stress. In our second study, we replicate and extend our first study and examine the effects of perceived pregnancy discrimination on mothers' postpartum depressive symptoms and babies' gestational age, Apgar scores, birth weight, and number of doctors' visits, through the mechanism of perceived stress. We find that perceived pregnancy discrimination indirectly relates to increased levels of postpartum depressive symptoms for the mothers, and lower birth weights, lower gestational ages, and increased number of doctors' visits for the babies, via perceived stress of the mothers during pregnancy. Implications for theory and practice, limitations, and future research are discussed.