Former Leeds United player and YEP back campaigns for workplace changes to support couples after miscarriage and pregnancy loss
Former Leeds United and England goal-keeper Nigel Martyn and the Yorkshire Evening Post are backing a campaign to make changes in the workplace for people who have been affected by miscarriage.
It comes as part of Baby Loss Awareness Week (October 9 to 15), which is in its 19th year, and a movement by charity, The Miscarriage Association which is urging businesses and organisations to agree to meet its new pregnancy loss standard.
The Pregnancy Loss Standard is designed to ensure that staff going through what can be a very difficult or traumatic time get the support and time off they need, as at present, there is no statutory entitlement to paid leave for people who lose a baby before 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Several companies are signing up to the charter, including JPI Media, the publishers of the Yorkshire Evening Post.
It encourages a supportive work environment where people feel able to discuss and disclose pregnancy and/or loss without fear of being disadvantaged or discriminated against; an understanding and implementation of rules around pregnancy-related leave, ensuring staff feel able to take the time off they need; implementing a pregnancy loss policy or guidance into other workplace policies with partners in mind too; encouraging managers to access in-house or external guidance on how to support staff experiencing pregnancy loss and being responsive to needs and flexibility wherever possible for staff returning to work.
Claire Jackson, Head of HR at JPIMedia added: "We know that there will be colleagues in the business who have been affected by this issue and, sadly, more who will experience loss in the future and so today marks our commitment to giving those affected as much support as possible. We believe that pregnancy loss, whenever or however it happens, is a bereavement and that providing support to staff members at such a devastating time is crucial."
Former Leeds United goalkeeper Nigel Martyn is patron of The Miscarriage Association and has been working with the charity for around 20 years. He and his wife Amanda had four miscarriages over the space of seven years, and also have a son Thomas who is now 29-years-old and daughter Fay, 23.
When the couple lost their first baby 30 years ago, he recalls that attitudes to miscarriage were very much "get on with it", despite how common it was even then and says, three decades later, progress in researching miscarriage and how it is talked about is too slow.
Backing campaigns for changes in workplace rules he recalls how for he and Amanda, just being able to have a few days away together was important to them as a couple.
He said: "In my line of work, you were expected to play football. There was one incidence when I was in London that we found out on Friday that Amanda had lost the baby and on Saturday I was playing.
"When I came here (to Leeds United), George Graham was the manager and said take as much time as you need but that was not ‘take two weeks off’, it was ‘miss a few training sessions’ but we need you for the game.
"Steve Coppell was great, when I was in London (Crystal Palace) he said take a few days and we went away. But, it depends on the job and the timing. It is difficult, some jobs are completely different. Say a builder has a deadline to get a house done and you want a week off, they will get the sack and that is completely wrong.
"I definitely think you need some time together, you have suffered it together. Even just looking back on what we did, just a few days does not change anything but it helped having time together - at that point your world feels like it is ending. It is horrible and you have to pick up and move on.
"The gear moves very slowly in these situations, we need them to move quicker because as years and years go by, more and more people are suffering.
"It needs to be out there, it is happening every day to hundreds of couples and the more exposure and the more it is talked about, the better the understanding and hopefully more funding goes to finding reasons why and finding ways to cut the numbers - that, ultimately, would be great.”
Part of Mr Martyn's work with The Miscarriage Association is to help men open up about their feelings following miscarriage and pregnancy loss.
“There were probably three or four married lads and their wives knew each other. There was a little bit of that sort of chat but it would be a private thing somewhere quiet. It wouldn’t be in the middle of the dressing room telling everybody about it, it does not work like that but perhaps that is the way to do it. For some people it is hard to say ‘how are you doing’ but it is probably good to get it out there for everybody.
“At the end of the day it happens to the woman and you share the emotional aspect but she has the physical aspect of it all. In the old days, it was ‘it didn’t happen to you, get on with it’ but it is still a baby that you have both lost. It does happen to a couple."
"It is part of why the Miscarriage Association wanted to get me involved to help the men out there. We are all completely different across the spectrum. Some are very macho and say ‘it won’t bother me’, even though it does, and others take it really to heart a lot more - we are all different."
Mr and Mrs Martyn lost their first baby before Thomas was born. They had two more 'classic' miscarriages at nine to 10 weeks into the pregnancy and a complicated fourth pregnancy loss which put Amanda's life in danger too.
When they had Fay, the pregnancy was managed with hormone injections, increased hospital monitoring and visits and a planned C-Section which also allowed Mr Martyn to fly home from the 1998 World Cup to be at the birth.
Even years on, he says he and Amanda still have questions, pangs of grief and wonder how different their family would have been.
He added: "You do think why is this happening to us, why does it keep happening. It does not seem fair. Yes, the percentage is out there, but if it is re-occuring there was not much known as to why.
"It is a constant reminder because we say we could have had a 30 year-old and you do look back and say things like that. You don’t ever forget and we both find ourselves now, at different times, something happens and it makes you stop and think what our family could have been and what we have got, we are blessed and happy for.”
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