We should follow New Zealand's lead with a miscarriage bereavement bill

Australia should follow New Zealand’s lead with a miscarriage bereavement bill

miscarriage

Last week, New Zealand passed a critical bereavement leave bill for all parents who lose their baby during pregnancy. Granted three days paid leave, parents can take the time they need to grieve their loss and move forward without forsaking sick leave. It’s a welcome (albeit small) step forward.

At Pink Elephants, we have been championing an amendment to the Australian Fair Work Bereavement/Compassionate Leave Act for just over two years to try and ensure Australia takes similar steps of progress.

This change is so important, and will form a huge part of addressing the systemic change required to challenge the common misconceptions of miscarriage, the disenfranchisement of our community’s grief and loss.

As it stands, one in three women in Australia will lose their baby to miscarriage. It’s the mental health event most likely to impact a woman in her lifetime.

But while it’s common, miscarriage isn’t always something you just get over quickly. It can’t be minimised with ‘at least it happened early’ comments or ‘at least you know you can get pregnant’.

If we are to address the cultural change that is necessary to better support women and their partners through the death of their baby, we need to first validate their experience as real grief. This bill does that, it says to our community your baby existed, their life mattered, no matter how short it was. Your grief is real.

By providing this type of validation we will begin to see women and their partners accessing the support they deserve after the loss of their babies and subsequently reduce the long-term mental health impacts that we sadly see far too often in our community.

A recent study published in January 2020 by Professor Tom Bourne at The University College of London showed that miscarriage can induce an intense period of emotional distress which, if left unsupported, can lead to poor mental health outcomes. Indeed, a sixth of women were symptomatic for anxiety, PTSD, or depression at clinical levels 9 months after their losses. In Australia, 60 percent of women who had experienced a pregnancy loss surveyed in 2020 by The Jean Hailes Women’s Health survey, said they felt unsupported through pregnancy loss.

But together we can collectively support the heartbroken parents who currently face this alone.

It’s time to right the story of miscarriage. It’s time to validate this very real experience and break the silence to ensure every bereaved parent has access to a circle of support. Leave for Loss is one way we can do this and it’s such a simple amendment to a bill we already have, we just need the bill to be clearly inclusive of all pregnancy loss.

At the moment there is no provision in place for the 103,000 women and their partners who experience a pregnancy loss prior to 20 weeks. Sadly we hear daily stories from women returning to work the same day; women quite literally bleeding and cramping at their desks. Surely we have more compassion than this?

Pink Elephants have had several meetings with members of federal parliament over the past two years. We have support from Julian Simmonds MP for Ryan who knows first hand what this support would mean to our community. We’re following the processes needed to table this bill and welcome your support of our campaign. Let’s show our MPs how important this is to us all.

You can show your support of our Leave for Loss campaign by sharing this post or making a donation to empower our circle of support for the 282 women every day who hear the words ‘I’m sorry there is no heartbeat’.

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