"'Oh gosh, why go?' cause they are going to look at me and not hire": intersectional experiences of black women navigating employment during pregnancy and parenting

BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2023 Jan 10;23(1):17. doi: 10.1186/s12884-022-05268-9.


Background: Workplace legal protections are important for perinatal health outcomes. Black birthing people are disproportionally affected by pregnancy discrimination and bias in the employment context and lack of family-friendly workplace policies, which may hinder their participation in the labor force and lead to gender and racial inequities in income and health. We aimed to explore Black pregnant women's experiences of pregnancy discrimination and bias when looking for work, working while pregnant, and returning to work postpartum. Additionally, we explored Black pregnant women's perspectives on how these experiences may influence their health.

Methods: Using an intersectional framework, where oppression is based on intersecting social identities such as race, gender, pregnancy, and socioeconomic status, we conducted an analysis of qualitative data collected for a study exploring the lived experience of pregnancy among Black pregnant women in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Twenty-four women participated in semi-structured interviews (January 2017-August 2018). Interview transcripts were analyzed using grounded theory techniques.

Results: Participants expressed their desire to provide a financially secure future for their family. However, many described how pregnancy discrimination and bias made it difficult to find or keep a job during pregnancy. The following three themes were identified: 1) "You're a liability"; difficulty seeking employment during pregnancy; 2) "This is not working"; experiences on the job and navigating leave and accommodations while pregnant and parenting; and 3) "It's really depressing. I wanna work"; the stressors of experiencing pregnancy discrimination and bias.

Conclusion: Black pregnant women in this study anticipated and experienced pregnancy discrimination and bias, which influenced financial burden and stress. We used an intersectional framework in this study which allowed us to more fully examine how racism and economic marginalization contribute to the lived experience of Black birthing people. Promoting health equity and gender parity means addressing pregnancy discrimination and bias and the lack of family-friendly workplace policies and the harm they cause to individuals, families, and communities, particularly those of color, throughout the United States.

Keywords: Employment; Financial insecurity; Income inequality; Intersectionality; Mental health; Perinatal health; Pregnancy discrimination; Qualitative research; Stress.

MeSH terms

  • Employment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intersectional Framework*
  • Parenting*
  • Parturition
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women
  • United States