Holding a job is the new normal for pregnant women in the United States, but many encounter significant barriers to success on the job and at home, according to a survey of new and expecting mothers that was released today. The data brief, Listening to Mothers: The Experiences of Expecting and New Mothers in the Workplace, is the first release from the National Partnership for Women & Families since it joined forces with Childbirth Connection last week. Both organizations have worked for decades to improve the health of women, moms and families.
“This brief highlights the expertise of Childbirth Connection and the National Partnership, and our mutual dedication to improving the health and economic well-being of women and their families,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership. “The experiences of pregnant women and new moms across the country demonstrate that not enough is being done to ensure that the nation’s workplaces have the basic policy standards necessary to prevent discrimination and promote the cultural changes America’s women and families need and deserve.”
Childbirth Connection is now a core program of the National Partnership. In 2013, Childbirth Connection released the results of its third national Listening to Mothers survey of childbearing women and a follow-up survey of the same group – women ages 18 to 45 who gave birth to single babies in U.S. hospitals from July 2011 through June 2012. Harris Interactive conducted the online survey. Experts at the National Partnership and Childbirth Connection analyzed the findings pertaining to women’s workplace experiences in the brief issued today.
“The goal of this survey is to track the experiences of mothers to identify ways to strengthen the quality of maternity care in this country,” said Maureen Corry, senior advisor for Childbirth Connection programs at the National Partnership. “A closer look at the experiences of these women in the workplace clearly shows that, along with improving the quality of care for pregnant women, we have to make sure that the nation’s workplaces are both family friendly and free of discrimination in order to promote better outcomes and give every child a healthy start.”
Key findings of Listening to Mothers: The Experiences of Expecting and New Mothers in the Workplace include:
- Most pregnant women today are employed. Sixty-one percent of survey respondents reported working for someone else or being self-employed during pregnancy. More than half said they were employed full time.
- Women often need minor adjustments on the job to protect their health during pregnancy. Breaks were the most common accommodation needed; 71 percent of survey respondents reported needing more frequent breaks at work when they became pregnant.
- Too often pregnant workers’ need for accommodation goes unspoken. Of those who reported needing more breaks, four in 10 (42 percent) never asked their employers to accommodate them – with many likely fearing repercussions, refusal or uncertainty about how the request would be received.
- New moms report discrimination and lost pay, hours, promotions and responsibilities upon returning to work. More than one in four surveyed women reported experiencing bias from their employers due to perceptions of their “desire, ability or commitment” to doing their jobs.
- Breastfeeding remains a significant challenge for new moms with jobs. A majority of women (58 percent) who were employed at the time of the follow-up survey reported that breastfeeding along with their paid job had been a challenge.
The brief points to a number of policy solutions to better meet the needs of pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace, including the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would help pregnant workers access the same reasonable accommodations already afforded to employees with similar limitations, and the Supporting Working Moms Act, which would expand the right of nursing moms to have a time and place for breaks to express breast milk while at work.
“At a time when having a job during and after a pregnancy is a financial necessity for many women and their families, the data and experiences of mothers show that much more needs to be done to ensure fair and supportive workplaces,” Ness added. “The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, the Supporting Working Moms Act and improved education and outreach to prevent explicit discrimination and implicit bias are common sense actions that should be high priorities for Congress and the administration.”
About the National Partnership
The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care and policies that help all people meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at NationalPartnership.org.