Sadly around 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss, and for around one in three women, it can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These shocking statistics are why it is so important to have awareness of the potential impact of miscarriage, for yourself and for employers, and your workforce.
When should you return to work after a miscarriage?
Pregnancy loss impacts both physically and mentally, for individuals and relationships. There are no rights or wrongs regarding how or when you return to work and trying to gauge when you will be ready can be incredibly difficult.
‘I felt happier going back to work after a couple of days, it gave me a positive distraction; I felt so helpless, hopeless, being at home. But after a couple of weeks, I realised that I wasn’t coping; taking time off allowed me to really feel physically and mentally more robust before going back.’ ~ Kate
Kate had thought she would feel better being in the office, but sometimes the shock can appear to make us feel a little better than we really are. Self-care at this time is so important. If there is no one close to speak to, reaching out to the Miscarriage Association and Tommy’s can validate some of the many emotions and provide practical tips to help cope better as the shock subsides.
Navigating work after a miscarriage
With more people speaking out about the impact of loss, workplaces are embracing new ways of working, creating a more supportive environment. There is also now guidance available for both people returning to work after loss and their employers. The CIPD report ‘Workplace Support for Employees Experiencing Pregnancy or Baby Loss’ published in October 2022 confirmed the lack of consistency around pregnancy loss support together with the benefits of promoting wellbeing in the workplace by having a defined structure in place.
Finding out your current procedures enables you to create a plan, who to notify at what point in time when you are planning to return to work and what options are available for you. For example, a phased return to work, or home working. You can self-certify for up to seven days of initial sick leave. If you need longer, your GP or other Allied Health Professional can provide a ‘fit note’ confirming you are either fit or not fit for work. Many times, I hear people suggest you ‘can’ have two weeks off after a miscarriage, but there are no rules.
Historically people announced a pregnancy after their 12 week scan. But changes in attitudes now enable earlier access to support, around both pregnancy and pregnancy loss. Even still, sharing information with work can be difficult.
‘We had been through IVF so knew I was pregnant very early on, finding out it was ectopic was devastating, more so as it took so long to treat. Finally surgery was needed, my fit note said I was off work following gynaecological surgery and post operative recovery, which was all the hospital doctor needed to share. I was pleased at the time, I didn’t need to tell work I’d been pregnant in case they thought I would want to be pregnant again soon. But then I felt wholly unsupported and I knew it was not their fault.’ ~ Carys
Carys may have worried about her career if people knew she was hoping to conceive again. The law protects people against discrimination around pregnancy and related sickness, but the workplace can still feel difficult to navigate, especially if there is there is awareness of potential changes, through promotion, or restructuring. Having support from other people who have or are returning to work after miscarriage can help to promote robustness through empathy and sharing of strategies with those who understand.
‘I just didn’t have the energy to work at my usual pace, I felt stressed all the time that I was letting down my team, after the second miscarriage in a year we decided I would stop work.’ ~ Jane
The NHS confirms that ‘an increased risk of miscarriage is not linked to your emotional state during pregnancy’, but any life impacting event can routinely heighten stress levels. Embracing it and managing it well is key to thriving, not just surviving through and beyond pregnancy loss. As so much of our time is spent at work, feeling that our physical and mental wellbeing are supported is key to promoting the ability to continue to work.
The impact of miscarriage on men
‘I took paternity leave after the birth of my son, when we were expecting again, I just thought it would be the same, I was so happy. My wife seemed to take our loss in her stride and was planning ahead, I struggled. It didn’t feel fair to share how devastated I was, I developed depression which seemed to spiral. Counselling helped to validate the loss and I now just wish I’d sought support sooner.’ ~ Richard
The impact of pregnancy loss is not just felt by women. Miscarriage For Men was established in 2021 as a safe place for men to turn who previously often suffered in silence. Compassionate leave may be available for both male or female partners; this may be paid or unpaid.
Loss is never easy or straightforward and can be hugely impactful, whether you already have children or not.
How Bloss can help
Bloss Experts are able to support your workplace by providing guidance around creating or updating your Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss Policy. Our workshops can promote a more informed working environment, benefitting those who need support and those providing support too.
Individual appointments are available around pregnancy loss at any time. Sometimes it can be months, or years, before you are ready to pause and reflect on the impact of miscarriage. But when it comes to returning to work, you will know what feels right for you, and if you move too quickly, it is okay to take a step back.
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