“Always on parade”: Pregnancy experience of active-duty air force members
Day, M. A., Gil-Rivas, V., & Quinlan, M. M. (2023). “Always on parade”: Pregnancy experience of active-duty air force members. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 93(1), 41-49. https://doi.org/10.1037/ort0000654
Abstract Created by REACH:
This study used a grounded theory approach to examine workplace experiences among pregnant active-duty women in the Air Force. 15 enlisted members and 15 officers who were between 3–9 months pregnant or within 3 months postpartum completed phone interviews. Overall, 4 themes emerged. Women reported being subjected to negative stereotypes and stigma, working to contradict or avoid negative perceptions, shifting their priorities from the military to their family, and questioning the feasibility of motherhood and military service.
Branch of Service:
Active duty service member
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Day, M. A., Gil-Rivas, Virginia, Quinlan, Margaret M.
Findings are reported from a qualitative study that sought to understand the maternity experience of active-duty women in the context of improved and expanded pregnancy accommodations. Semistructured interviews were conducted with 30 active-duty women serving in the United States Air Force (15 enlisted and 15 commissioned members). Women described experiencing negative pregnancy-related stereotypes and stigma in the workplace. Connotations unique to military culture were unavoidable changes to uniform and physical body shape, cultural expectations of fitness, and uniformity of dress/appearance. Use of necessary pregnancy accommodations led to increased exposure to stereotypes and stigma, such as being perceived as less disciplined, lazy, weak, or receiving unfair advantages/fewer duties at work. Women relied on “covering behaviors” to separate themselves from negative stereotypes. Extreme covering behaviors put pregnant women’s health and well-being at risk. Finally, women navigated a shift in priorities from an indoctrinated “service before self” perspective to a prioritization of personal health and well-being during pregnancy. Leadership skills were strengthened through this change in perspective, which were perceived as positively influencing unit morale, cohesion, productivity, and retention. Study findings suggest the military will experience limited success in fully integrating and retaining active-duty women due to an organizational climate that lags behind the recent, progressive improvements in pregnancy policies and accommodations. Organizational culture related to pregnancy within the military must be targeted for change to reduce negative stigma and pregnancy-related bias.
American Psychological Association
Department of Psychological Science, Health Psychology PhD Program, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, MAD
Department of Psychological Science, Health Psychology PhD Program, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, VGR
Department of Psychological Science, Health Psychology PhD Program, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, MMQ
Department of Psychological Science, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, VGR
Department of Communication Studies, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, MMQ
pregnancy, military culture, stigma
REACH Publication Type: