In its Fall Fiscal Update, the Federal Liberals indicated they would be moving forward with requiring paid leave for federally regulated workers who experience pregnancy loss.

Program details have yet to be announced. Currently, the country's Employment Insurance program provides some benefits for parents who have experienced pregnancy loss, but they only apply to employees who have banked enough hours, at least 600, of insurable employment during the quliafying period. Specifically, those who experience a pregnancy loss before the 20 week mark may be able to receive sickness benefits under EI (with a doctor’s note). If there is a pregnancy loss after 20 weeks, parents may be able to receive maternity benefits. Both sickness and maternity benefits last for up to 15 weeks. 

Linda Marek, Executive Director of the Pembina Valley Pregnancy Care Centre, says this is a positive announcement, so those who experience loss have the option of taking the time they need to heal.

"Certainly, with pregnancy loss, there's physical impacts, emotional impacts, someone might need more follow up care with their doctor," she explained. "We don't know what it might be, a few days, a week or a couple weeks (referring to the length of the new paid leave), but having time to care for yourself physically and emotionally after suffering through a loss, I think, is really important and really honouring to women."

Marek noted, for some expectant mothers and families, they can experience loss more than once. At the Centre they have supported women who have lost multiple pregnancies.

"There's just a deep sense of grief, loss, struggle and why me? Often a deep sense of shame. Why can't I carry a baby to term? What's wrong with me? Is there something wrong with me? There's lots of really deep soul searching," she shared. "Women are impacted physically, emotionally. It's a very heavy load for them, often with their partner as well. Men are impacted, for sure. Maybe they had wanted to be a dad, or we're really excited about this, and now they're seeing their partner struggle with this loss, and it's very real for both of them. Not just the loss of baby, but the loss of their hopes and dreams of being a family, maybe of a legacy. There's all sorts of things that go through someone's mind, and there's layers of loss there."

From a Pembina Valley Pregnancy Care Centre perspective, Marek stressed they feel it's crucial to provide a space for the emotional support needed after a loss.

"There's lots of different emotions connected with that, and so we see that range of thoughts and feelings," she noted. "We're glad to provide that space, for them to know it's safe and confidential, and they have support from someone to listen, care, and even just to validate and honour their loss." 

Marek pointed out they have dealt with situations when a mother's pregnancy loss, and the emotions she's feeling, have been dismissed.

"Maybe someone you know doesn't mean to be hurtful, but they might say something dismissive, like, 'Well, you were only that far along' or 'You can try again' or "You're young and healthy, it'll all work out' or 'Just pray more,'" she said. " There's lots of things people have said, in well-intentioned ways, but have been deeply hurtful. We've heard that from women, they've shared their experiences with us, and we just want women to know they're supported. There's someone who cares, someone who will listen and we're here for you."

The centre is getting ready to launch its free Steps in Hope support group in February 2024, Hope standing for "Healing Our Pregnancy Experiences". It's a support group for women who have experienced miscarriage or still birth. To learn more about the support group, you can email and our phone number is 204-325-7900.

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