Although an estimated one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage those affected have no legal entitlement to paid time off work to process the heartache.
Campaigners hope to end that – among them North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain who has experienced the trauma first-hand.
She spoke publicly for the first time about losing a baby in the eighth week of pregnancy as she backed efforts to introduce legislation for paid miscarriage leave.
Miscarriage is the loss of a baby before 24 weeks, and a private members bill has been introduced by Lanark and Hamilton East MP Angela Crawley proposing entitlement by those affected time off without loss of earnings.
Former police officer Wendy suffered a miscarriage between the births of her daughter and son, who are now aged 16 and 14.
She said the loss hit both her and her husband and she took a week off work to cope with both the physical and emotional impact.
It’s not just about the physical recovery, it’s about emotional recovery.”
Wendy Chamberlain MP
She said: “I was fortunate, I was still in the police then and I was able to take leave to recover.
“Others often don’t have that option and either have to rely on the goodwill of employers, or worse, carry on without any support at all.”
Some women, such as those in the gig economy or on fixed term contracts, work through a miscarriage fearing they will lose income if they don’t, she explained.
“It’s not just about the physical recovery, it’s about emotional recovery.
“I had my son after, but I’m aware for others miscarriage is something that might happen multiple times and that must be devastating.”
Fathers also suffer when a baby is miscarried, she said, and also need time to come to terms with the loss and support their partners.
“I have two older stepchildren and when this happened my husband was absolutely rocked. He hadn’t experienced this before and he felt absolutely helpless to support me.”
Liberal Democrat Wendy is among 53 MPs from across the political spectrum who signed a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson backing the bill.
What is the leave entitlement now?
Currently, parents are only entitled to paid leave when they lose a baby after 24 weeks of pregnancy, which is termed a stillbirth. Mothers of stillborn babies are entitled to full maternity leave and both parents can take two weeks of bereavement leave.
Some employers already offer paid leave for those who lose a baby earlier in pregnancy – including the Scottish Government – but there is nothing in law to compel them to do so.
Those who suffer a miscarriage may be able to take pregnancy-related sick leave but will only be entitled to the sick pay specified in their contract, which may be statutory sick pay.
Other countries do have paid leave legislation including New Zealand and, most recently, Australia.
What is being done to change the law?
If the private members bill is successful, parents who experience a miscarriage before 24 weeks will be entitled to three days of paid leave.
It is due to be debated in Westminster – the matter is not devolved to the Scottish Parliament so legislation must come from the UK Parliament – on December 3.
A petition has been launched which members of the public can sign. It will be delivered to Downing Street ahead of the debate.
Meanwhile the Miscarriage Association is encouraging employers to take its Pregnancy Loss Pledge, committing to supporting employees through the distress of miscarriage.
Those who make the pledge agree to create a supportive work environment, implement rules for pregnancy-related leave and have a policy or guidance in place to support people back to work.