'Council pregnancy loss leave will allow people like me space to grieve'

Councillor Kirsty Law has welcomed Inverclyde Council's policy to offer two weeks paid leave to grieving parents.

Councillor Kirsty Law welcomes Inverclyde Council policy to offer paid pregnancy loss leave to parents iStock

A councillor who discovered her baby had stopped growing at her 12 week scan has welcomed a policy allowing council staff two weeks paid leave for pregnancy loss at any stage. 

Councillor Kirsty Law was heartbroken to discover her baby had stopped growing at eight weeks, at a time when few people even knew she was pregnant. 

The SNP representative for Inverclyde East Central said she was left with feelings of “grief, loss and shock” after losing her child at such an early stage. 

“It’s such a common experience,” she told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

“I know of several of my friends, who also experienced pregnancy loss, so you’re not alone.

“I found out I was pregnant and went for my 12-week scan thinking everything was OK, and I got told that the baby had stopped growing at eight weeks.

“I was given the option to see if I would miscarry naturally, but given the fact it was like a four-week [period] in between and I hadn’t, I decided to go through with the procedure to get it surgically removed.

“The problem that you then have – I hadn’t even told my family that I was pregnant in the first place – is this kind of grief, loss and shock, all these things, and nobody even knows you’re going through it.”

NHS figures estimate that one in eight pregnancies end in miscarriage, although other data sources suggest it could be as high as one in five.

Following the loss of her baby, Councillor Law said she was almost “obsessed” with replacing the loss and becoming pregnant again. 

“I felt like I just wanted to get pregnant again, so that I could, I don’t know, recover from it,” she said.

“You were effectively every month thereafter – when your period comes – suffering that loss all over again.

“It took a wee while to get over it.

“It took me over a year after that to get pregnant with my daughter, so it was quite an emotional turmoil, that period in my life.”

Councillor Law shared her story as Inverclyde Council passed a policy allowing staff who suffer pregnancy loss at any stage to be offered two weeks leave on full pay. 

The local authority will also sign a pledge with the Miscarriage Association to ensure workers are properly supported during what can be a difficult or traumatic time.

The law entitles parents to at least two weeks of statutory paid leave if they suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy or the death of a child under the age of 18.

However, a pregnancy loss before 24 weeks is considered a miscarriage and parents would not be entitled to maternity leave or pay or parental bereavement leave.

The council will enhance its provisions, following in the footsteps of Fife Council, to offer all parents two weeks of full pay if they suffer a pregnancy loss at any time or if they lose a child up to the age of 18.

Councillor Law, a member of the committee, said it was reassuring to see that the council is “taking these issues quite seriously” and not doing “the bare minimum” in terms of adhering to legislation and “understanding people’s experiences”.

“Obviously it predominantly affects women,” she said. “However, I’m really pleased that men are included in this as well, because you’re going through it together and you’re both thinking that you’re about to have a baby.

“In some of these situations, men are forgotten about, to a certain extent, so [it’s important] to have that protection as well.

“It also creates a culture and a workplace where you feel like you can be more open about things, which is also encouraging.

“The emotional impact of it — and the mental health issues that can follow from that — can sometimes become attached to the stigma of that sort of thing, so it’s good to have that umbrella approach to make sure that all these factors are considered and you’ve got that wee bit of cushion and time to process it.”

For Councillor Law the pain would ease, but she takes encouragement that the council’s decision could help others.

She added: “At the time I had a really supportive workplace, so I was thankful for that, but also friends would open up and say, ‘that happened to me,’ and you start to realise how common it is, but how little people actually talk about it.

“These policies being put in place create that safe space to say, these are everyday issues that we’re all facing.

“You don’t just get pregnant and have the baby every time. There’s lots of stuff that can happen at any stage in the pregnancy.

“This is recognising that no matter what stage it’s at, it has an impact on you.”

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