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24 Oct 2016

MPs to debate extra maternity leave for mothers of premature babies

Mothers whose babies are born prematurely are calling for an extension to their statutory maternity leave, BBC News reports.

The current statutory maternity leave of 52 weeks kicks in the day after the baby is born. This is true whether the baby is born premature or full-term, meaning that some mothers have no choice but to return to work when their baby is still very young.

These women can lose weeks of bonding at home with their new baby, particularly their baby arrives much too early and has to spend some time in hospital before allowed to go home.

Catriona Ogilvy, a London-based mother of two, experienced this herself on two separate occasions. Her first son, Samuel, was born 10 week prematurely; he had to be resuscitated for six minutes after his birth and it was six days before she could even hold him. It was a further eight weeks before she would be able to bring him home – which was still a fortnight before his official due date.

The nightmare was repeated for Catriona when her second son, Jack, was born before full-term and had to spend two weeks in hospital before going home.

A former neonatal worker herself, Mrs Ogilvy was shocked to discover that in both cases, her statutory maternity leave kicked in straight away.

“It was a complete shock to the system,” she told the BBC. “Having worked there, I thought I knew all there was to know, but all those families were using their maternity leave sat in a hospital.”

“It really kicks in when you get home and you can be a mum to your baby for the first time. Then all that time is taken away from you and you have to go back to work when they are so tiny. It is a bitter pill to swallow.”

She began fighting for increased leave for mothers of premature babies through the Smallest Things campaign, an online petition to give an extra week of leave for every week that a baby is born premature. Now that it has gained more than 100,000 signatures, the issue will be debated in parliament by MPs.

Copyright M2 Bespoke 2016


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