Hey Preggos, If You Just Lost Your Job Your Babies Would Be Healthier

shutterstock_17269807Good morning and please enjoy a nice cup of guilt along with your breakfast, especially if you are headed into work this morning. A new study conducted in Barcelona, Spain, reported by the Atlantic says that moms who work less have healthier babies, because they eat better, smoke less, sleep longer, and spend more time walking in the Mediterranean sun and stopping at farmers markets along the way.

Libertad González, an associate professor at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra,recently examined the health of registered newborns in Spain from 1981 to 2010, and she cross-referenced the data with the unemployment rate in each of the country’s provinces at the time. With each 10 percent increase in unemployment, she found, the neonatal death rate dropped by 7 percent, and the percent of babies with low birth weights decreased by 3 percent. The reason? During recessions, mothers consistently reported being in better health, and they exhibited healthier behaviors.


I suppose this makes sense in some ways, but aren’t working moms who find themselves unemployed stressed out due to the new loss of income and health insurance associated with losing a job or not being able to find a job? The article states that this study from Spain meshes with a study conducted in the US that showed American babies born in periods of high unemployment had fewer birth defects, were more likely to weigh a healthy amount, and were less likely to die. The article does state that these positive results are due to temporary dips in income, and that long term unemployment is generally terrible for people.

So maybe just spend your entire pregnancy relaxing and then you can go back to work.

We all know how amazingly unfeasible it is for the majority of pregnant women who work to be able to do this, so I think we can just stick this study on the same pile that will probably claim in a month that women who don’t work during pregnancy give birth to babies with their own set of health problems.

My own hypothesis from reading all these various studies on pregnant women and the health of their babies is that they can’t win no matter what they do.

(Image: Mona Makela/shuttestock)

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  • Kelly

    I don’t understand how a dip in income makes a person healthier at all. That part makes no sense to me. I understand how being able to sleep in instead of going to work every day can result in a healthier pregnancy and baby.

    I was one of those women who had to choose between my job and my pregnancy. It sucked. My reality was that I just couldn’t keep both. I was on daily IVs and passing out constantly at work. I was very lucky that I could make that choice though. I know some women can’t. A friend of mine had to work through all of her pregnancies and she miscarried more than once. I know she blamed herself. It was awful.

    • Alex Lee

      That’s what makes the study so curious. SOMETHING about Spain’s attitude toward income and money and family is just not what we in the U.S are used to. They have some kind of faith or confidence that, even without a job or salary, they can raise a healthy baby in a healthy home with a healthy mom.

      Sorry to hear about your difficult pregnancy. Hope things are better now.

    • Kelly

      Thanks. My son is 13 now so we made it through and everyone’s in good health now, thankfully.

      It is curious. Every time I’ve had a dip in income, my stress levels have gone up and it’s been harder to purchase healthy foods because they cost more. Maybe it’s cheaper to eat healthy in Spain and that’s part of it? Or possibly they have better unemployment benefits or services to help unemployed pregnant woman?

    • Ennis Demeter

      Socialized medicine and generous unemployment payments is my guess.

    • Alex Lee

      The study only focused on overall economic drop from unemployment and I could not find any mention of medical policy or government support.

  • Lackadaisical

    So basically all those employers who decades ago had a policy of sacking … er … letting a woman go as soon as she married to avoid a pregnant workforce were not actually sexist dinosaurs of the species Chauvisourus Rex but were actually men who knew best and had women’s interests at heart. If only someone had mansplained that sooner we would all have stopped being negligent mothers by working through pregnancies. Obviously working pregnant people work out of stubbornness rather than a need for money to support themselves so this should all be resolved soon.

    • Sexy Robotic Arms Dealer

      I would like to see a Chauvisourus Rex fight a Gynosourus Rex

      That’ll be cool!

  • Kay_Sue

    I don’t know about temporary dips in income, but I definitely had more complications with my second pregnancy, which I worked almost entirely through (I finally took a week of vacation the week before my due date that dove tailed right into my leave) than in my first, which I did not work through, because I was a student. I don’t think that’s true for everyone, and I think it was more that the place I worked was stressful and difficult, and I had a tendency to push myself too far (I am a little stubborn), than it being something applicable to every working woman that chooses to reproduce.

    You’re right. It really seems like “preggos” just can’t win.

  • keelhaulrose

    Maybe this works if you have the money, but I was let go halfway through my first pregnancy, realized all my husband’s income was what we were spending on keeping the house, the lights on, and food in the pantry, and freaked out that there was no way we’d be able to support a baby on just his income (do you hear that, you “don’t have babies you can’t afford” folks? There are those of us who could afford our babies until life handed us a major lemon). Luckily it worked out for us (he lost his job, too, and found a higher paying one in three days, and our state has healthcare for pregnant ladies), but I can see where losing one household income would be devastating.

  • keelhaulrose

    Just wondering if they found any correlation between these periods of high unemployment and WHO is having babies in that time? Birth rates tend to drop during recessions, if I remember correctly, especially among lower income people who can’t afford good health care for their babies (the ones who tend to do risky things during their pregnancy like eat foods they aren’t supposed to, drink, or smoke). I think there’s a whole set of factors they’re missing by simply saying “high unemployment= healthier babies”.

    • Alex Lee

      The study did account for that. Noting that more-qualified parenting couples chose to reproduce during economic depressions. The paper had gobs of statistics to account for all kinds of those variables.

    • keelhaulrose

      But to me that’s just saying that because those people who can’t afford healthy pregnancy habits reproduce less during periods of high unemployment the general health of babies born during that time goes up, which doesn’t necessarily support that an individual mother would be better off unemployed during pregnancy. Those women who aren’t having babies who otherwise might need to be factored in, and many of those would be producing the unhealthy babies, especially if their mother is under stress from being in a one-income situation. So while I agree with their findings that babies born in high unemployment periods are healthier, I don’t think it can make the jump to “if you’re pregnant your baby would be healthier if you were unemployed” in an individual sense because we don’t have those babies to study.

    • Alex Lee

      Right. The study isn’t making that jump either. They do conclude that maternal attitudes and behaviors can significantly overcome any stress that loss-of-job might bring to a pregnancy. Your mileage may vary.

  • Alex Lee

    By chance, did the article mention anything about having to look like Penelope Cruz while sensuously sniffing organic herbs at the local market? Because I can see how that could be somewhat stressful.

    But back on topic, that’s a pretty interesting study. Over 30 years of data, they see different cultures have wildly differing attitudes to income and employment:

    India, for example, reacts as we might think – with loss of employment, maternal stress increases and fetal mortality goes up.

    Spain, on the other hand, is the opposite – with loss of job and/or income, moms focus more on the home and their own health and fetal mortality goes down. But give them employment and a salary and they forsake the home and healthy lifestyles and go out drinking and smoking. (no, seriously, they measured alcohol and smoking rates in the study)

    I think that approach to loss-of-income and loss-of-job is utterly fascinating.

    While we’re dishing on Spain, did you know moms in Madrid actually get 16 weeks of PAID maternity leave with 6 of those weeks being for post-natal care?

    In comparison, couples in the U.S have the luxury of 12 UNpaid weeks of maternity leave (split however you wish pre or post birth)

    For dads, the señors get 30 days of paternity leave effective next year. Hombres in the U.S get the same luxury that moms get: 12 unpaid weeks.

    Going to watch Nespresso commercials on YouTube now and imagine what Penelope Cruz’s maternity package would be.

    • Valerie

      My husband is very fortunate that his company gives 2 weeks of fully paid paternal leave. He also gets a ton of vacation time. When our first was born, he was able to take an entire month combining the paternity with 2 weeks of his vacation time. It was pretty great getting that month to recover fully from my c-section while we got to hang out and learn how to be parents together. For our 2nd, he only took his paternity leave for 2 weeks because we wanted to save his vacation time for the summer. I feel very lucky that we had the time we did. I know a lot of dads do not have that luxury.

  • Valerie

    Huh. Well, I worked thru most of my 1st pregnancy and only gained 25 lbs- I was pretty active at work and didn’t eat too badly. I stayed at home for my entire 2nd pregnancy and gained 45 lbs. Being home meant having more access to food and snacking a lot more than I should. At work, I am on a much healthier routine of getting dressed and out the door at the same time every day and eating at certain times instead of grazing all day. I’m sure it is different for everyone but for me, I definitely feel healthier being at work than I do staying at home. I’m not disciplined enough to stay healthy at home.

  • cabinfever

    Isn’t this just another way of saying that attention to things like stress, exercise, diet and sleep is important? Don’t we know that?
    Find a new “Pregnant Women Should/Shouldn’t” framework for it, and it’s news.

    I don’t know how to account for the fact that pregnant Spanish women with jobs are out drinking and smoking. But it’s silly to suggest that the answer to that problem is to take away their jobs.

  • Williwaw

    Even if I lost my job, I wouldn’t be strolling along in the sun and going to farmers’ markets because (a) it rains a lot where I live, and (b) if I lost my job, I sure as hell couldn’t afford to travel to Spain (come to think of it, I can’t afford that even with my job).

  • K.

    This study doesn’t tell me anything new. Yes, chances are that your baby will be healthier if you eat better, have time to exercise, and aren’t under too much stress.

    Once again, I suspect this doesn’t really doesn’t have to to with work, per se, but economics.

    Working 3 jobs that force you to be on your feet all day in bad working conditions? Yes, I would say that’s bad for baby, and I would bet that being a migrant worker, slaughterhouse cleaner, factory worker, coal miner, or an employee at something like an electronic waste recycler probably doesn’t contribute positively to the health of a baby.

    Alternatively, having the means that enable a woman to NOT work generally do probably contribute positively to the health of a baby.

    Leave it to the media to contort the message from “We should help women rise out of poverty so they can support their families” to “Women shouldn’t work because they’ll harm their babies.”

    • Kay_Sue

      I think I love you.

    • K.

      Aw, shucks :)

  • CrazyFor Kate

    When is Mommyish going to figure out that studies aren’t specifically constructed to offend them?