Moms Lobby For Paid Parental Leave After Stillbirths

Ashley Hunte
A pair of knitted baby shoes next to a stuffed toy.
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Giving birth to a baby is an intense physical and emotional toll on any person. To carry a stillborn to term has the added stress of dealing with the loss of the very infant you'd been carrying. For any parent-to-be, it's a devastating ordeal.

Stillbirths affect 1 in every 160 birth in the United States, and yet pregnant people who have experienced stillbirths are expected to go back to work right after.

Many moms are now calling for paid family leave to cover stillbirths as well.

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Today shares the story of Cassidy Crough, who experienced a stillbirth after carrying her daughter, Olivia, for 36 weeks.

She recalls, "It was literally the most horrific moment of my life."

Despite her daughter having passed in the womb, Crough still had to deliver her to term.

A pregnant woman standing in a baby nursery.
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Crough delivered Olivia on March 16, and then prepared for her funeral. Afterwards, she reached out to her state of residence, New York, about parental leave.

But to make matters worse, the state denied Crough's request.

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Her insurance carrier told her that parental leave is only reserved for parents of newborns. Because Crough does not have a newborn, she doesn't qualify. This, as Crough says, "was an emotional slap in the face."

Though her daughter was stillborn, Crough still had to give birth to her.

A pregnant woman whose baby bump is exposed.
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She says, "A mother buries their child that they carry nine months — when they go through all the physical aspects of birth and undergoing all the postpartum horrific symptoms that every other female goes through — and now you’re telling me that because my baby didn’t live I’m not entitled to the benefits?"

Whether the infant survives or not, the act of giving birth is still physically demanding.

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"It should be changed to ‘postpartum leave’ because that will encompass everyone that gives birth to a child. If you birth a child, whether it’s C-section or vaginal, you should be getting paid family leave because your body is undergoing a trauma."

The United States is one of very few countries in the world that does not offer parental leave.

A person in a hospital gown holding a newborn baby.
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Adrienne Schweer of the Bipartisan Policy Center told Today, "We’re one of the only developed countries in the world that does not offer paid parental leave to all citizens and one of the few countries that doesn’t offer paid family caregivers and paid medical leave. One in four moms is set to go back to work within 10 to 14 days of giving birth, which is outrageous."

Though there's no federal mandate, some states offer parental leave to new parents.

A couple holding baby shoes; one of them is pregnant.
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New York, where Crough lives, is one such state, joining others like California, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Washington. The majority of states do not offer leave.

In most case, those who would benefit from paid leave the most don't have access.

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"In some parts of the country, where workers might be struggling the most, where you have a lot of low-wage workers or rural workers, (people) are less likely to have access to paid family leave," Schweer continues.

And those few states that offer parental leave generally don't have policies that encompass stillbirths.

A woman sitting at a darkly-lit table while in distress.
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For Crough, the emotional toll of delivering a stillborn baby continues to be devastating.

"She came fast and furious — a couple of pushes and she was out. It was the proudest moment of my life because I was so proud to hold her and see how perfect she was for the first time. But it’s also the worst day of my life."

Crough used bereavement and vacation to take time off work.

A woman with her face in her hands while standing outside.
Unsplash | Abigail Keenan

"It really added to my grief and my depression and really made me feel as if New York state didn’t recognize that my baby was real," she said.

h/t Today