Miscarriages are much more common than most people realise. In Northern Ireland, it is estimated about one in eight pregnancies will end in miscarriage; that’s about 3,000 losses a year. So why is miscarriage still a taboo? Why are we not talking about this common grief and loss that mothers, fathers and families are experiencing, especially in our church families?

Miscarriage or early pregnancy loss (EPL) is the loss of a baby before 24 weeks of pregnancy. A woman who has a miscarriage may not have realised she was pregnant and often she will not have told anyone about the pregnancy until after the safe’ 12 weeks stage. So, talking about miscarriage can be painful for mothers and fathers as they come to terms with what might have been, but has been lost.

Recently the Evangelical Alliance in Northern Ireland submitted a response to the Department for Economy on the Miscarriage Leave and Pay Consultation.

Currently, the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act (Northern Ireland) 2022, and the subsequent regulations, only provide a statutory entitlement of 10 days parental bereavement leave, together with a statutory payment for eligible working parents who experience a stillbirth from the 24th week of pregnancy, or the death of a child under the age of 18.


We welcomed the plans to extend the statutory entitlements to those who experience a miscarriage up to the end of the 23rd week of pregnancy.

Here are the two main points we made in our submission:

1. We value every human life and have compassion for the loss of the unborn and the unseen.

The Evangelical Alliance advocates for the value of human life from beginning to end. We believe that every human life has immeasurable value to God who created them, including those lives yet unborn and unseen as Psalm 139 so beautifully illustrates;

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:13 – 16

For this reason, we welcome policies that recognise the existence and value of human life pre-birth and the grief that parents and families experience in their loss of that life. We appreciate policy that brings compassion into the workplace for people who have experienced child loss at every stage of the process of pregnancy and parenthood, including miscarriage.

2. Going to church can have a positive effect on the mental health of mothers dealing with miscarriage.

A recent British Medical Journal survey on early pregnancy loss highlights that early pregnancy loss may be associated with a high likelihood of multiple mental health issues. With this in mind, we draw attention to research published in the March 2018 issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion which ties church participation to improved mental health after a miscarriage. The study finds that faith can have a significant positive effect on the mental health of women dealing with miscarriages. Among women who have had a miscarriage, the results show better levels of mental health among those who are frequent religious service attenders and have high religious participation. 

These findings are a reminder of the value of churches and faith in our communities as places and people of compassion and support. It is a prompt to the local church to gather around people and families who have experienced child loss at every stage of pregnancy and parenting, to offer them the physical, emotional and spiritual support in a way that churches can do so well.

Sensitive conversations about miscarriage and showing compassion to those who have experienced child loss are not just for the workplace. Our churches can play a crucial role by accompanying individuals, couples, and families who mourn miscarriages and other pregnancy-related losses. The first step is to break the silence about this common yet hidden grief, to create a community of couples and families who experience God holding and loving them through death into hope and new life.

The Miscarriage Leave and Pay Public Consultation in Northern Ireland is now closed but you can read the full consultation documents here.