Misconceptions, Episode 8: Miscarriage and work

Author
Kathryn van Beek, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 1 Jul 2020, 8:29PM

Misconceptions, Episode 8: Miscarriage and work

Author
Kathryn van Beek, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Wed, 1 Jul 2020, 8:29PM

Misconception

It happens all the time but we hardly ever talk about it. About one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, leaving many couples struggling with unresolved grief and social isolation. In this 10-part video-based online series, made by Digital Alchemist and funded by NZ On Air, we break down the myths and provide practical help. We hear from well-known NZ personalities - The Hits host and te reo advocate Stacey Morrison, TVNZ presenter and journalist Miriamo Kamo and funeral director Kaiora Tipene from The Casketeers - about their personal experiences and follow the stories of six couples who have been through the trauma of miscarriage.

The physical and emotional experience of miscarriage is different for everyone, and for people who are employed, another layer of complexity is involved. Operations, medications, bleeding, and grieving may have to be managed alongside the demands of family and work life.

Sick leave may be taken - and anything from half a day to several days might be required, depending on the individual and their situation.

But under New Zealand law, bereavement leave for those who suffer miscarriage is not currently a given. Instead, the onus is on the employee to discuss the loss with their employer and reach an agreement over whether bereavement leave may be taken. This grey area in the law has led to many women and their partners being denied the opportunity to grieve their losses.

"Culturally we don't share with our managers or our colleagues, so it can make it more difficult for you to take leave and explain what happened and why you're not going to work," says bereaved father Behrooz Balaei. "Society is not quite kind to the father. You're the man, you're not kind of allowed to grieve. You don't have any right to spend time with your family."

Labour MP Ginny Andersen has proposed a change to the Holidays Act to ensure that people who experience pregnancy loss can access bereavement leave.

"My bill proposes a simple change that allows existing bereavement leave to be automatically made available for those who have had a miscarriage," she says. "The outpouring from the general public made me realise that this was a big issue. I've heard many stories of women being afraid to ask their employer, or not knowing what the answer would be."

The bill is currently making its way through the parliamentary process. It has made international news, and has wide cross-party support.

National MP Agnes Loheni says that as a woman, as a mother who has had a miscarriage, and as a business owner, she can see the importance of this change. "Across the house, men and women were supportive of this bill in terms of getting it to the next stage," she says.

"It was really good to sit and listen to the other contributions made from other MPs and other women who I didn't realise had gone through this, and it highlighted the fact that whatever we can do as a society to help support the woman and her husband through this is a good thing."

Need support?

  • If you think you may be having a miscarriage, contact your lead maternity carer - this may be a midwife or your GP. Alternatively, call Healthlinefree on 0800 611 116, or visit your local Urgent Medical Centre or hospital
  • Visit the Miscarriage Support websiteor join the Facebook group.
  • Visit the Sands website. Sands supports parents and families who have experienced the death of a baby.
  • Free call or text 1737to talk to a trained counsellor.

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