Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss
Our stance on recent calls for reform around miscarriage support.
We were saddened to read the recent research published by The Lancet which evidenced both the physical and mental impact of miscarriage, but encouraged to read its call for worldwide reform on the availability and quality of care that people receive.
Given the serious psychological consequences of pregnancy loss, which include increases in the risk of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicide, this report is timely and the call for reform around care and support – both mental & physical – is well overdue.
For far too long people have had to suffer in silence, without appropriate acknowledgement of the severe physical and emotional impact of miscarriage and other forms of pregnancy loss.
The work we do at Sanctus is focused on supporting people’s mental health and wellbeing. We’re particularly focused on the workplace as this is where people spend most of their time.
Our pregnancy loss policy reflects Sanctus’ mission to normalize the conversation around mental health in the workplace and to ensure employees are adequately supported at all times.
We are happy to share details of our own pregnancy loss policy more widely in the hope that it encourages other organizations to act swiftly to bring in more adequate support for people experiencing miscarriage and other forms of pregnancy loss. We are also encouraged to see other organizations such as Channel 4 who have introduced pregnancy loss policies and very much hope that this becomes the norm for all employers.
We have also compiled some advice for dealing with pregnancy loss, based on the personal experience of one of our Sanctus coaches, Rebecca Armstrong, alongside signposting to helpful resources shared by organizations such as Tommy’s and the Miscarriage Association, and providing some advice for HR and People Teams looking to better support their employees.
Rethinking your pregnancy loss policy – and details on how we have structured our own.
Although 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, organisations that offer dedicated pregnancy loss policies are still few and far between.
Whilst pregnancy loss policies aren’t statutory in the UK, mental health is at the heart of our organisation and we want to ensure we support our team adequately at all times.
As someone who has experienced the loss of two children in circumstances where she didn’t feel she could raise her circumstances with her employer at the time, this policy is close to Kelly (our People Director)’s heart.
At Sanctus our pregnancy loss policy supports team members of all genders with:
- Up to two weeks’ paid leave (which does not count towards sickness absence)
- Paid leave for further medical appointments (which does not count towards existing sick leave or the two week’s paid leave for pregnancy loss)
- Flexible working arrangements to support a return to work after pregnancy loss
- Individual support from our People Team and Sanctus mental health coaching.
This is for a loss at any stage of the pregnancy, and for both partners, regardless of gender. Most importantly, it is a tailored approach which is employee led, it is important to remember that there is no one-size-fits all.
Advice for dealing with pregnancy loss from Sanctus coach Rebecca Armstrong.
Sanctus Coach Rebecca Armstrong, who has a personal experience of miscarrage, has shared advice for both those impacted by pregnancy loss, as well as for employers on what they can do to support their employees during these times.
Support and advice for those affected
- Whatever thought or emotion you have in response – it’s normal and valid. There is no right or wrong way to feel after a miscarriage.
- You may feel: anger, grief, confusion, shock, sadness, failure, isolation, uselessness, jealousy or anger at those who have children
- It’s important to spend time in the pain and the difficult emotions to grieve properly.
- It’s natural to want to try and “fix” things and control the situation. Unfortunately, pregnancy loss isn’t something you can just fix, hence why it is so important to spend time grieving.
- Think about how you want to honour the experience. Rebecca has worked with people who have created memory boxes, written poems or even had tattoos created. You also don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to – there is no right or wrong way to respond to this.
- Miscarriage has been linked to a form of PTSD, while for others it can surface as depression, anxiety or panic attacks. Therefore professional help in the form of therapy may be needed.
Impact on your relationship & partner:
- Some partners try to take on the role of protecting the one who has suffered the miscarriage, putting their own needs and feelings to one side. It’s important that you too take the time that you need to grieve.
- You may not want to share how you’re feeling with your partner for fear of making their anxiety worse. It’s important that you keep communicating with each other as much and as openly as possible.
- It’s very rare that a miscarriage was due to the actions of you or your partner. It’s important that you reassure each other that neither of you is to blame.
- A miscarriage can impact a relationship. It may bring some couples closer together while driving others further apart. This is part of the grieving process. You could consider professional guidance for your relationship to support you through this time.
For supporting employees
Supporting employees during & after pregnancy loss:
- It may take some time for an employee to open up, as they may be experiencing a range of difficult emotions or they may be worried about workplace discrimination.
- If they share with you, ask simple and open-ended questions. Be empathetic and don’t make any assumptions about how they may be feeling. Acknowledge what has happened and don’t diminish it with phrases like “at least you can try again” or “everything happens for a reason”.
- Give them the time that they need to open up to you and don’t try to pry information out of people before they’re ready.
- Ask the employee what they need to be supported. It’s important to know that they may not know this themselves at this time.
- Familiarise yourself with your organisation’s sick leave and compassionate leave policies. Does your business have a miscarriage or pregnancy loss policy in place? If the answer is no, encourage your business to create one.
- Do you have Employee Insurance or an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)? If so, does it cover pregnancy loss? Does your organisation offer some form of 1:1 therapy or coaching to support employees during this difficult time?
- It’s important to understand that additional time may need to be taken off for medical appointments. Consider building in additional support or time off for that, rather than counting it as sick leave.
Review your Compassionate Leave & Pregnancy Loss Policies:
As highlighted by a new report published by The Lancet, which calls for global reform around care for people who have experienced miscarriage and pregnancy loss, “Private grief and misconceptions- can lead to women and their partners feeling at fault or managing alone.” Review your policies, make sure you are allowing your employees the time they need off work to truly grieve, for medical appointments and support them on their return to work when they feel ready to do so.