Extend mat leave for mothers of premature babies!

cropped-cuddles.jpgEach year in the United Kingdom 80,000 babies receive specialist NHS neonatal care, with approximately a quarter spending a prolonged period of time in hospital. Parents of premature babies often describe their hospital journey as a physical and emotional rollercoaster. I have been on this rollercoaster and write about my experiences as part of our Smallest Things campaign. But there is also a very real cost to having a premature baby.

Earlier this year, Bliss reported on the added financial burden placed on parents of sick or premature babies. Be it travel, parking, accommodation, extra childcare or meals, the cost soon adds up, with figures suggesting that parents spend on average an extra £2,256 over the course of their hospital stay. Through my own story and the Smallest Things we are calling on UK government to extend statutory maternity leave and statutory maternity pay for parents of babies born prematurely.

A newborn needing prolonged hospital care is unlike any other childhood illnesses requiring hospitalisation. There is virtually no financial support for parents of premature or sick babies. Being in hospital you cannot apply for the disability living allowance and the flexibility of taking paid, unpaid or sick leave from work is not possible as maternity leave begins automatically the day after birth, in many cases weeks or months before a baby comes home.

The interruption of pregnancy and the uncertainty and loss of time preparing for your new arrival all add to the anxiety of life in neonatal care. The cost of daily hospital visits and concern over whether you can afford to be with your baby should not add to this difficult time. Getting over the initial shock parents describe how the hope of bringing their baby home can turn to anger and sadness that their time at home together will also be cut short. In context, more than a quarter of my maternity leave was spent visiting my baby in hospital and according to Bliss, like me, 60 per cent of mothers felt their maternity leave was too short.

In addition, premature babies are babies for longer. Born early they develop according to their ‘corrected’ age, calculated according to their due date rather than their birth date. This sees parents returning to work when their babies are still physically and emotionally less developed in comparison to babies born on or near their due date. This can be a worrying time for parents, particularly when a baby is still small or has ongoing medical concerns.

sam photoStudies also confirm that the risk of depression and anxiety is higher for mothers who have spent time in neonatal care, with many reporting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The added financial burden of a long hospital stay or limited time to bond with your baby at home can only exacerbate the risk. Extending statutory maternity leave and pay would enable mothers to have the emotional and financial support needed at a time of great trauma and stress, in turn leading to better postnatal health, a more positive return to work and better outcomes for baby’s development.

Is change is possible? YES, and the precedent has already been set. European countries such as Finland, Iceland and Croatia are all offering extended leave for parents of premature or sick babies. If you agree that mothers of babies born too soon should have more time, please sign and share our petition – SIGN NOW!



15 thoughts on “Extend mat leave for mothers of premature babies!

  1. chloe robinson

    I definately agree u should have longer maternity leave after having to go thro having a baby so early and in such a critical way its so emotional scary and very hard having to leave them but attend throughout the day for feeds and cares and then last thing at night tuck them in and leaving the hospital without ur baby u cant even explain the feeling ur left so empty and lost.


  2. deb crook

    I agree with this whole heartadly my son was born at 24 wks and spent 4 months in hospital which meant I only had 2 months left on leave with him his health was still very unstable when he left hospital so in the end I left work to look after him, now he is older I’m struggling to get back into work where as if the maternity leave and pay had been extended I would of still been in work.


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  4. Laura

    I am lucky not to have had a premature baby, but reading this post I completely agree with you. In actual fact, I think there should be more options for parents -mother/father whoever that may be, to stay at home with babies full stop. There is too much pressure to return to work very soon. Also people long term ill – not just occasional appointments should not have to pay for hospital parking, it’s just wrong. Good luck x


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  7. ghostwritermummy

    I’ve never actually considered the financial impact of having a premature baby, but your post really makes you think. Many families must really struggle at a time when they need to be strong to support each other and their baby during such a difficult time. Thank you so much for sharing and thank you for linking up to #maternitymatters x x


  8. Gloria D.

    Premature babies need more attention and yeah moms need rest too which calls for longer maternity leave. This is a common struggle for mothers and could also take a tool on everyone in the family. Your work on raising awareness about this issue is very much appreciated. Keep up the good work.


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  11. ver

    The link to the Bliss campaign doesn’t work. I can’t find the campaign via the search function on the Bliss website either. I want to share this on my FB page but it would help to have a working link.


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