Croydon MP introduces bill to extend maternity leave for mums of premature babies
Croydon North MP Steve Reed has introduced a bill to parliament which aims to extend the paternity and maternity leave for parents of babies born prematurely.
The move follows months of campaigning by Catriona Ogilvy, a Norbury mum who has spoken at length about her own experiences of having her maternity cut short, due to two of her sons being born weeks earlier than expected.
Mr Reed took the private members bill to the main chamber of the House of Commons on Wednesday (October 26) proposing to change the provisions surrounding maternity and paternity leave.
He said: “Having a premature baby is one of the most traumatic experiences that any parent can go through. Instead of bringing home the healthy baby they had longed for, their tiny baby is put inside an incubator, fighting for its life, surrounded by tubes, wires and bleeping monitors.
“Instead of holding their baby close, these parents can only watch as their baby struggles to breathe, dependent on life support and intensive care.
“This can go on for weeks and months before a baby is well enough to go home. The stress, anxiety and worry lead two in every five premature mums to suffer mental ill health.
“Parents fall into debt from the unplanned expense of daily journeys to hospital, overnight accommodation or eating in expensive hospital cafés.”
Both of Catriona Ogilvy’s sons were born prematurely (pictured in 2013)The bill has received cross-party support from the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, including Croydon South MP Chris Philp.
Mr Reed continued his speech to the Speaker explaining that having spoken to parents who gave birth prematurely, he has seen first hand the emotional and financial stresses placed on them.
He said: “One mum told me her baby spent three months in intensive care, and that time was all taken out of her statutory maternity leave.
“So her baby suffers twice: first, from the serious health complications of being born too soon and, secondly, from having less time at home with mum and dad—vital bonding time that can affect a child’s development for many years to come.
“I spoke to another mum who told me that once she had gone back to work, her employer would not give her the extra time off she needed to deal with her premature child’s frequent illnesses. She lost her job, and her family lost that vital extra income.
Catriona has been campaigning for just over a year“I spoke to a dad who had to go back to work the day after his baby was born three months too soon and was fighting for her life in an incubator.
“Most people would agree that his family needed him more at that time than his employer did, but the law did not give him the support he needed to be there with his family.
“We should give the parents of premature babies all the support they need to cope at one of the most traumatic times they will ever experience.”
Before concluding his speech, Mr Reed gave a mention to Mrs Ogilvy who has managed to gain more than 105,000 signatures on a petition which she initially expected to only receive around 5,000.
Since the Croydon Advertiserfirst reported on Mrs Ogilvy’s online campaign, the mum-of-two has gone on to appear on Sky News as well as ITV and the BBC to talk about her experiences, something that Mr Reed believes is crucial to making sure the bill gets passed through the House as quickly as possible.
He said: “I pay tribute to a Croydon mum and tireless campaigner, Catriona Ogilvy, who started campaigning on this issue after her two beautiful little boys were born prematurely. Over 100,000 people have already signed her online petition.
“I should also like to recognise the outstanding work of the charity Bliss, which campaigns for the rights of premature babies and their families.”
“It is time the law recognised the special needs of premature babies’ parents by extending their leave so that they can give their vulnerable, tiny babies all the love and care they need and deserve.
“This measure commands growing support in the country, it is the right thing to do, and it deserves the support of this House.”
The bill received the backing of nine Labour MPs (including Mr Reed), two Conservative MPs and one Liberal Democrat MP.
It will now go for a second reading on December 16, if successful it will go before a committee in the new year.