Pregnancy vs. paycheck: a qualitative study of patient's experience with employment during pregnancy at high risk for preterm birth.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

BACKGROUND: Pregnant women with a history of preterm birth are at risk for recurrence, often requiring frequent prenatal visits for close monitoring and/or preventive therapies. Employment demands can limit uptake and adherence to recommended monitoring and preterm birth prevention therapies. METHOD: We conducted a qualitative descriptive study using in-depth interviews (IDIs) of pregnant women with a history of preterm birth. IDIs were conducted by trained qualitative interviewers following a semi-structured interview guide focused on uncovering barriers and facilitators to initiation of prenatal care, including relevant employment experiences, and soliciting potential interventions to improve prompt prenatal care initiation. The IDIs were analyzed via applied thematic analysis. RESULTS: We described the interview findings that address women's employment experiences. The current analysis includes 27 women who are majority self-described as non-Hispanic Black (74%) and publically insured (70%). Participants were employed in a range of professions; food services, childcare and retail were the most common occupations. Participants described multiple ways that being pregnant impacted their earning potential, ranging from voluntary work-hour reduction, involuntary duty hour reductions by employers, truncated promotions, and termination of employment. Participants also shared varying experiences with workplace accommodations to their work environment and job duties based on their pregnancy. Some of these accommodations were initiated by a collaborative employee/employer discussion, others were initiated by the employer's perception of safe working conditions in pregnancy, and some accommodations were based on medical recommendations. Participants described supportive and unsupportive employer reactions to requests for accommodations. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings provide novel insights into women's experiences balancing a pregnancy at increased risk for preterm birth with employment obligations. While many women reported positive experiences, the most striking insights came from women who described negative situations that ranged from challenging to potentially unlawful. Many of the findings suggest profound misunderstandings likely exist at the patient, employer and clinical provider level about the laws surrounding employment in pregnancy, safe employment responsibilities during pregnancy, and the range of creative accommodations that often allow for continued workplace productivity even during high risk pregnancy.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Wheeler, SM; Massengale, KEC; Adewumi, K; Fitzgerald, TA; Dombeck, CB; Swezey, T; Swamy, GK; Corneli, A

Published Date

  • September 25, 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 20 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 565 -

PubMed ID

  • 32977746

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC7517633

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1471-2393

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1186/s12884-020-03246-7


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England