Changes in experiences with discrimination across pregnancy and postpartum: age differences and consequences for mental health

Am J Public Health. 2015 Apr;105(4):686-93. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.301906. Epub 2014 Jun 12.


Objectives: We aimed to contribute to growing research and theory suggesting the importance of examining patterns of change over time and critical life periods to fully understand the effects of discrimination on health, with a focus on the period of pregnancy and postpartum and mental health outcomes.

Methods: We used hierarchical linear modeling to examine changes across pregnancy and postpartum in everyday discrimination and the resulting consequences for mental health among predominantly Black and Latina, socioeconomically disadvantaged young women who were receiving prenatal care in New York City.

Results: Patterns of change in experiences with discrimination varied according to age. Among the youngest participants, discrimination increased from the second to third trimesters and then decreased to lower than the baseline level by 1 year postpartum; among the oldest participants, discrimination decreased from the second trimester to 6 months postpartum and then returned to the baseline level by 1 year postpartum. Within-subjects changes in discrimination over time predicted changes in depressive and anxiety symptoms at subsequent points. Discrimination more strongly predicted anxiety symptoms among participants reporting food insecurity.

Conclusions: Our results support a life course approach to understanding the impact of experiences with discrimination on health and when to intervene.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health / ethnology*
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Postpartum Period / psychology*
  • Poverty
  • Pregnancy / psychology*
  • Prenatal Care
  • Racism / psychology*
  • Young Adult