Mum who suffered 10 miscarriages in 7 years urges companies to sign support pledge

A mother who suffered ten miscarriages in the space of seven years says employers need to be more understanding towards parents dealing with their “traumatic loss.”

Nicola McGowan, who gave birth to her son River, four months ago is urging more companies to sign up to the Miscarriage Assoication’s pregnancy loss pledge which would allow employees who miscarry before 24 weeks paid bereavement leave.

It comes as Glasgow City and East Renfrewshire councils sign onto the pledge.

Under current UK legislation, women who lose their baby before 24 weeks of pregnancy must rely on annual leave, sick leave, or unpaid leave if they feel unable to return to work.

Nicola McGowan.

On Thursday Glasgow’s well-being committee met to discuss parental leave and agreed that parents – both men and women – who suffer a miscarriage should be supported in the same way as someone who has a stillborn child.

Nicola, 35, who lives in Barrhead explained why this development is so important to her and her family.

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She said: “We had a wee baby four and a half months ago but he was a twin and unfortunately we lost his wee brother or sister. Since 2015 we have lost ten babies so it took us a while to get him.

“I was very lucky and was actually given bereavement leave. There was a lot of understanding from my bosses, but my husband had a difficult time.

“His work closes during Christmas and summer so he can’t take any holidays outside of that. There were no options for annual leave and he didn’t get paid if he phoned in sick.

“He was told by his company that he had to get back to work. He couldn’t take any time off at all and I needed him at home as my mental health suffered a lot during my first miscarriage.

“I think I was off work for about three or four months. Thankfully as time went on I managed to cope a bit better.

“It has a massive impact on people’s mental health and you don’t want to have to rush back to work or deal with the public if you work in retail.”

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Nicola then shared what happened during some of her pregnancies and how her husband felt unable to take unpaid time off.

She continued: “Our first miscarriage was in 2015. We lost our first baby on our honeymoon in Cuba and my husband couldn’t take any more time off. We also lost twins in 2019.

“One of my pregnancies was ectopic which involves minor surgery which leaves you in pain. I struggled to do things afterwards, even lift a kettle.”

It wasn’t until this year that the couple finally had a successful pregnancy but it wasn’t plain sailing.

Nicola added: “Then our little miracle came along. He was an IVF baby and survived the odds. He was in special care for a week, so it wasn’t smooth.”

Following the loss of her twins in 2019, Nicola decided she wanted to raise awareness for miscarriage and began a non profit organisation by donating self care boxes and running support groups.

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Last month she opened up a baby bank in Barrhead which operates twice a month and offers nappies, wipes and other baby goods.

She continued: “We have had loads of donations, people have been giving us prams and car seats so we are hoping to make it weekly.”

With Glasgow City Council now joining the pledge, both men and women will benefit from bereavement leave equally which will allow women and their partners time to come to terms with their grief and trauma.

During their well-being committee an officer said: “I am delighted to bring this report to committee.

“It is an important report that recognises the difficulties faced by parents in relation to experiencing a miscarriage. As a council we are always extremely supportive of our staff and we do have parental bereavement by stillbirth.

“This report brings forward the idea that we need to now bring parity to all parents who experience the loss of a child – be that in a miscarriage situation or indeed in the stillbirth situation.”