Scottish Government Equality Outcomes: Pregnancy and Maternity Evidence Review

This evidence review was prepared to support the production of the Scottish Government's Equality Outcomes, with regard to pregnancy and maternity.

1 Introduction

Purpose of this document

1.1 This paper is one of a series written to inform the development of equality outcomes for the Scottish Government. Guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) states that a range of relevant evidence relating to equality groups1 and communities should be used to help set equality outcomes that are likely to make the biggest difference in tackling inequalities.

1.2 The EHRC suggests the following criteria for selecting equality outcomes:

  • Scale - how many people are affected by the issue and how does the issue impact on their life chances?
  • Severity - does the issue present a risk to equality of opportunity for particular protected groups? Is it a significant barrier to opportunity or freedom?
  • Concern - do equality groups and communities see it as a significant issue?
  • Impact - is the problem persistent or getting worse? What is the potential for improving life chances? Is the problem sensitive to public intervention?
  • Remit - are you able to address the issue given your remit?

1.3 This series of papers provides evidence for some of the questions listed above - in particular, on the scale and severity of issues facing equality groups. It is intended that this evidence will feed into a process of engagement with equality groups and communities, to help develop the most relevant equality outcomes.

1.4 These papers seek to identify, very briefly, key findings and evidence gaps for the equalities groups in policy areas including: education, employment, poverty, housing, transport, hate crime, justice, public appointments, health, sport, and culture.

Key findings

1.5 The evidence review of academic articles, research and briefing reports from statutory and third sector organisations reveals that the principal areas of discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity are employment; income, poverty and welfare; and access to health services for migrant and asylum seeking women and women in rural areas of Scotland. Further disadvantage arises for women experiencing domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence.

1.6 School education: Teenage pregnancy can have a severe impact on the education of mothers attending school, by interrupting schooling and possibly hindering the return to school or continuation to post-school education.

1.7 Further and higher education: Studies of the experiences of pregnant students show learning environments that are unsupportive and even discriminatory. However, as institutions are currently developing policies for students during pregnancy and maternity, this may improve.

1.8 Employment: There are many examples of women losing pay and status, and even their jobs, due to pregnancy. The number of maternity-related employment tribunals has been rising, even as other types of case decline. Over a tenth of sex discrimination claims in GB employment tribunals in 2009-10 concerned pregnancy.

1.9 Poverty: Poverty during pregnancy is specifically associated with poor diet, and so with worse pregnancy outcomes. Pregnant asylum seekers are identified as being especially vulnerable to poverty, and an association is made between teenage pregnancy and deprivation.

1.10 Housing: The limited data suggest that there may be concentrations of lone mothers in the most deprived neighbourhoods, and that it can be difficult for authorities to engage with those in most need of support. The potential impacts of changes to housing benefit are not yet fully understood.

1.11 Transport: The evidence reviewed is limited to media coverage of carrying prams on public transport.

1.12 Hate crime: The incidence of physical abuse of women, and particularly domestic violence, increases during pregnancy and early maternity. It is suggested that midwives have a role in identifying pregnant victims of domestic abuse.

1.13 Justice: No evidence has been found to suggest that pregnant women or new mothers experience discrimination in accessing legal services.

1.14 Health: Health outcomes and health care experiences can differ for pregnant women on the basis of their youth, ethnicity, migrant or asylum seeking status, mental health or learning disabilities.

1.15 Sport: The limited evidence generally finds that exercise carries health benefits for the woman and unborn child.

Gaps in the data

1.16 Assessing the scale of the issue of pregnancy and maternity in further and higher education is problematic because of the absence of pregnancy and maternity data recording.

1.17 As Scottish further and higher educational institutions are still in the process of developing mechanisms and policies/strategies to support students during pregnancy and maternity, so their impact and effectiveness cannot yet be assessed.

1.18 There appears to be little information specifically relating to pregnancy and maternity within research on housing and place. Little analysis is available of the implications of changes to housing benefits for women during the maternity or pregnancy period.

1.19 No significant evidence emerged of pregnancy and maternity related discrimination with regard to transport usage.

1.20 No evidence of pregnancy and maternity related discrimination in connection with public appointments has been identified so far.

1.21 The rapid evidence review identified no issues arising in social care around pregnancy and maternity.

1.22 There is little evidence relating to the participation of pregnant women in regular or organised sport.

1.23 This rapid evidence review did not reveal any material in relation to pregnancy and maternity discrimination affecting participation in culture.


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