Preterm birth and maternity leave
According to the UK charity Bliss (2014: 4): ‘There are 78 000 babies born too soon, too small or too sick in Britain each year.’ Apart from the parental fear and anxiety accompanying a premature infant's hospital stay of weeks or months, the financial strain, according to a Bliss survey, translates to ‘an average of £282 a week, or £2256 over the course of [the] baby's stay in hospital’.
A further dimension was highlighted with the launch of a petition by mother-of-two Catriona Ogilvy, founder of www.thesmallestthings.org, who is campaigning for mothers of premature babies to be given an extra week of maternity leave for every week spent in hospital with their child. On 17 November, World Prematurity Day, she and her supporters handed the petition—which had 115 230 signatures and remains open— to Parliament. ‘For me,’ she said, ‘as the mother of two small boys born too soon, World Prematurity Day was an oppor tunity to reflect on and highlight the realities of neonatal intensive care; a chance to shine a light on a hidden world and a journey that lasts long after bringing your baby home from hospital. Our message is that neonatal intensive care is not maternity leave.’ And it is a message that prompted Ogilvy's local MP, Labour's Steve Reed, to raise the issue in Parliament (BBC News, 2016), proposing a Maternity and Paternity Leave (Premature Birth) Bill.
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