The Interactive Effects of Coworker and Supervisor Support on Prenatal Stress and Postpartum Health: a Time-Lagged Investigation


Pregnancy represents a critical time during which women are increasingly susceptible to challenges that can shape maternal health postpartum. Given the increasing number of women who are working through the duration of their pregnancies, in this study, we examine the extent to which both maternal psychological and physical health are influenced by social support received at work during pregnancy. Specifically, we examine 118 pregnant employees’ perceptions of coworker support, supervisor support, and stress over the course of 15 working days. We then link prenatal stress levels with postpartum maternal health outcomes following women’s return to work. At the within-person level, coworker support predicted next-day decreases in stress during pregnancy; however, stress did not predict next-day change in coworker support. There was no relationship between supervisor support and next-day change in stress during pregnancy or vice versa. At the between-person level, an interactive effect between coworker support and supervisor support emerged in predicting prenatal stress, such that women who benefitted from supportive coworkers and supportive supervisors during pregnancy reported the lowest levels of prenatal stress which were, in turn, associated with lower incidence of postpartum depression and quicker recovery times from birth-related injuries. Significant indirect effects suggested that when perceptions of supervisor support were higher (but not lower), coworker support during pregnancy predicted lower incidence of postpartum depression and quicker recovery times through reduced prenatal stress. Taken together, our findings provide novel insight into how specific aspects of the workplace environment may interact to shape maternal psychological and physical health during pregnancy and postpartum.

Publication Title

Journal of Business and Psychology