Scottish Parliament to debate extending maternity and paternity leave for parents of premature babies!

This week (Wednesday 21 Dec) members of the Scottish Parliament will debate Alison Johnstones MSP’s motion supporting The Smallest Things campaign to extending maternity and paternity leave for parents of premature babies.
The campaign, begun by mum of two premature babies Catriona Ogilvy, has received over 125,000 signatures on their petition and has received the backing of cross-party MPs in Westminster

Each year approximately 2,320 babies are born premature in Scotland, requiring specialist neonatal care. Many have prolonged stays in hospitals, with mothers waiting days or weeks to be able to hold their baby for the first time. For these parents, recovering from the trauma associated with premature birth, the time they spend visiting their baby each day in neonatal intensive care is classed as maternity leave.

Catriona Ogilvy said sitting beside an incubator each day, watching your baby on a life support machine, should not be classed as maternity leave. The neonatal intensive unit is so far removed from what anyone would expect maternity leave to be; lines and wires, breathing tubes and feeding tubes, monitors and alarms. It is a medical world where mothers are not able to fulfil even the simplest tasks of being a mother, and yet this is still classed as maternity leave. It can’t be right for mother or baby.”

Catriona now writes about her own experiences and aims to raise awareness through her charity The Smallest Things

For more details, please contact Catriona directly at

Key Details:

  • Steve Reed MP introduced the Maternity and Paternity Leave (Premature Birth) Bill to Westminster on 26 October 2016. The bill received cross-party support and the second reading is scheduled for the 24 March 2017
  • Premature Baby Charity Bliss estimates that the average cost to parents of spending time with their premature baby in neonatal care is £2,256
  • 40% of mothers develop postnatal depression following neonatal intensive care, compared to 5-10% of mothers who deliver without complication at full-term.
  • More than half of mothers report anxiety and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following neonatal intensive care. 

Alison Johnstone’s motion in full

Extending Maternity and Paternity Leave for Parents of Premature Babies

That the Parliament notes the campaign, The Smallest Things, which is calling on the UK Government to extend maternity and paternity leave and statutory maternity pay for parents of babies who are born prematurely; understands that, according to research by Bliss, there are an estimated 5,800 babies born every year in Scotland who require specialist neonatal hospital care; further understands that this extended period of care can have a serious impact on the health, wellbeing and financial security of the families concerned, including those in Lothian, and notes the introduction of the Maternity and Paternity Leave (Premature Birth) Bill in the House of Commons, which is a private member’s bill that seeks to extend leave in these circumstances.

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