New Zealand Is The Second Country To Offer Bereavement Leave For Pregnancy Loss And Stillbirth

New Zealand Is The Second Country To Offer Bereavement Leave For Pregnancy Loss And Stillbirth

Politician Ginny Andersen championed the Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage Bill until it was recently passed unanimously in New Zealand's parliament.

Representative Image Source: Getty/freemixer

Losing an unborn child can be incredibly traumatizing for a woman, who bears the child for weeks looking forward to the day she can finally meet her baby. But when her hopes and dreams of motherhood are shattered by the unexpected loss of the child in the early stages of pregnancy, she slips into despair. With time, she does recover from the event but never really forgets about the tragedy that keeps gnawing at her heart constantly. Since the chances of a miscarriage aren't that rare, it is not treated as seriously as it should be. Most of the time, the experience is chalked off as a routine health issue, overlooking the extensive emotional trauma that it has on the woman who lost a potential child.




Looks like not every country is indifferent to women who undergo the heartbreaking experience of a miscarriage. This month, New Zealand's parliament passed a bill legislating three bereavement days of leave with full pay for women and their partners following a pregnancy loss. The unanimous decision comes as a "compassionate" move from the lawmakers in the country. The groundbreaking bill was introduced by Politician Ginny Andersen, who applauded the nation for "leading the way for progressive and compassionate legislation." 




"The Bill will give women and their partners time to come to terms with their loss without having to tap into sick leave. Because their grief is not a sickness, it is a loss.  And loss takes time," said Anderson, a member of the Labour Party led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. "I hope this bill will go some way in recognizing the need for time and space to deal with the imaginable grief that comes with losing a pregnancy," she told local network TVNZ in a statement. The law includes parents who plan on having a kid through surrogacy or adoption but don't extend to women who have an abortion. Miscarriage happens before 20 weeks gestation which, according to New Zealand's Ministry of Health, is "fairly common - about one or two out of every 10 pregnant women miscarry." 




But experts, including the New Zealand College of Midwives, suggest that one in four women suffer the loss, with 95 percent of them happening in the first 12 to 14 weeks of pregnancy, reports NZ Herald. But the exact number is not known since the loss is not registered with Births, Deaths, and Marriages. This doesn't diminish the suffering of parents, especially the mother. Thus, a London-based psychotherapist specializing in pregnancy loss hoped that the Bereavement Leave for Miscarriage Bill encourages other countries to do the same. "This is a both a real and symbolic recognition that miscarriage can be a grave bereavement for a woman and her partner," she told TODAY




Speaking to HuffPost, Andersen said she hopes that the move helps reduce the stigma surrounding the subject. "People still are afraid to talk about it," she said. "Particularly in that first trimester of pregnancy... There might be a whole range of reasons, but that’s kind of like an unspoken rule, you don’t talk about your pregnancy until three months." With this, New Zealand has become the second country in the world to provide leave for stillbirth and pregnancy loss. In India, women are entitled to six weeks of paid maternity leave following a miscarriage or medical termination under the maternity benefit act. 




In the US, Reddit is one of the very few employers that provide paid miscarriage leave of eight and a half weeks of fully paid leave for pregnancy loss (both father and mother). However, most women in the US feel pressured to go back to work even after a pregnancy loss. "Not everybody works for Reddit," said Dina Baks, the co-founder of non-profit A Better Balance. "We hear from women, low-wage women in particular, who are often a complicated pregnancy away from losing their job." Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's data, 17 percent of pregnancies in 2010 ended in miscarriages, reports TIME.




Clinical psychologist at the Center for Reproductive Psychology in San Diego, Janet Jaffe, Ph.D., said, "Because it is medically common, the impact of miscarriage is often underestimated." According to the American Psychological Association, she added, "But miscarriage is a traumatic loss, not only of the pregnancy but of a woman's sense of self and her hopes and dreams of the future. She has lost her 'reproductive story,' and it needs to be grieved." In yet another study from Britain, it was found that around 15 percent of the women who miscarry their child suffer significant depression and anxiety following the event for up to three years. 

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