The North Carolina Justice Center is partnering with mission-driven organizations like Women AdvaNCe to help ensure that living, working, and raising a family in North Carolina are dignified, supported experiences. Together, we are working to secure four main accommodations to benefit North Carolina residents: 1) Paid Sick and Safe Days, 2) Paid Family Medical and Parental Leave, 3) Pregnancy Accommodations, and 4) Living Wages.
Although medical advancements have made pregnancy a safer process, pregnancy remains a difficult and risky time during a woman’s life. Pregnant women are at higher risk for diseases, such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and depression. These conditions not only endanger the mother’s well-being but also the unborn child’s.
Research in maternal-fetal medicine underscores the influence that gestation, birth, and early infancy have on the rest of a child’s life. In other words, we cannot overstate the importance of a healthy pregnancy – for both mother and child.
In general, a typical pregnancy will require 10-15 prenatal visits with the OB/GYN. During these visits, a doctor will screen the mother and fetus for risk factors and ensure the pregnancy is progressing healthily. Research has shown a direct correlation between the number of prenatal visits and the success of the pregnancy and birth. In other words, the more prenatal visits an expectant mother can attend, the more likely she will have a healthy baby.
Pregnancy can also be an uncomfortable, painful experience. Almost any mother can recall mornings racked with nausea and on the verge of vomiting or having difficulty walking due to lower back pain and swollen ankles.
Pregnancy discomfort and the schedule of prenatal visits almost guarantees that pregnant women will have to take time off from work at some point during gestation.
Currently, North Carolina employers are required to make “reasonable accommodations” to support pregnant women. However, North Carolina does not require employers to provide pregnant employees with paid time off from work to attend to their health needs. This obstacle drastically disincentivizes pregnant women from taking time off to properly attend to their body and their baby.
Women AdvaNCe spoke with Cassie, a mother of two who lives and works in North Carolina, about her experiences balancing work and pregnancy.
Cassie had been with her company for five years when she became pregnant with her first son. Everything was going smoothly until 24 weeks into the pregnancy when Cassie developed complications and spent time in the hospital. The doctors gave their orders: bed rest. Cassie was not allowed to leave the hospital or her bed for a week. Quickly, the medical bills began to pile up.
Cassie explains, “because I worked for a small company at the time, they didn’t have any rules or policies in place regarding pregnancy.” In the end, Cassie’s husband’s insurance provider covered the growing family’s medical bills accrued throughout the pregnancy. Cassie was able to take six weeks off from work to focus on healing her body and bonding with her infant son.
Cassie reflects: “had we not had [that insurance] to help bridge the gap between pay periods, or if I was a single mom, it would’ve been really difficult. Those [six weeks] are needed for your body to recoup. Like you just underwent a near-death experience for some people, and honestly, six weeks isn’t enough.”
As a state, we need to acknowledge that gestation is a critical time for unborn children and the women who grow and nurture them.
OUR CALL TO ACTION:
North Carolina – ensure that pregnant women are able to comprehensively attend to their needs without fear of losing their income or their jobs.
Emma Hergenrother is from Ridgefield, CT. She is excited to be currently living in Durham, NC, and contributed to Women AdvaNCe as a Research Fellow. Earning her Bachelor’s from Princeton University, Emma majored in religion with a focus on the relationship between religious attitudes, theological beliefs, and environmentalism. Since graduation, Emma has worked for an affordable housing nonprofit in Connecticut, and is currently studying to become a physician with a focus on pediatric health. In her free time, Emma enjoys cooking with her partner, going for long walks, and diving into her latest audiobook.