Help an Employee Return to Work After a Pregnancy Loss

Group of co-workers with one being ostracized
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Pregnancy loss is, unfortunately, more common than most people realize. An employer that has female workers is likely to have to deal with the situation at some point. And don't forget that even men can be affected by a partner’s loss.

If one of your employees does suffer a miscarriage or stillbirth, she will no doubt need some time off work. Her doctor will determine how much time off she needs based on the personal circumstances of her case. Often, women who have an early miscarriage are able to return to work after just a few days, or a week. Later in pregnancy, a loss can lead to a longer leave of absence.

Try to be open-minded about her leave; the length may not be under her control. Remember, a physically or emotionally suffering employee will not be able to perform her job effectively.

Pregnancy loss is a highly personal experience. Some women will recover quickly, and appear less affected while others will need more time to grieve. There is no right or wrong way to cope with a pregnancy loss. Your employee will be the best judge of her ability to perform her job effectively. It’s OK to ask her what she’s capable of and keep asking, as long as you try to stay sensitive. 

Handling an Employee's Pregnancy Loss

One way to assess how well your employee is coping is to conduct a return interview. It doesn’t have to be formal or even in person, but a dedicated conversation about her experiences and her state of mind as she returns to work can spare you both awkwardness and confusion. In any situation where an employee goes through a personal tragedy, a good employer keeps the lines of communication open. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it will also foster a sense of loyalty if employees are treated with compassion during a personal crisis. A few tips for handling this situation:

  • Acknowledge her loss: A simple “I’m sorry for your loss” can go a long way. If you have a good relationship, you might consider asking if she wants to talk about her experience. Be prepared for her to say "no," and don't force the issue. 
  • Promise confidentiality: You already know you can’t share personal information with other employees, but it's a good time to remind a woman who's suffered a miscarriage that anything she says will remain private and that she is not obligated to share any information with her coworkers unless she wants to.
  • Discuss time off for future care: Some women pursue additional testing after a pregnancy loss to determine future health and pregnancy risks. 

If your employee’s job allows, she may be able to return to work sooner with a graduated return schedule. Whether that means working from home, or parttime at the office, her physical and mental energy may benefit from a slower restart.

Not every job will allow for this strategy, of course, but if your employee seems to be struggling with her return, she may benefit from a modified schedule. 

Grief is a normal, healthy part of the human experience. Your employee will have good days and bad, and that’s to be expected. Be sure she has the option to seek professional help if she feels she needs it, but respect her privacy. 

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychological Association. Miscarriage and loss. 2012.

  2. UCLA Health. Recurrent pregnancy loss.

  3. Volgsten H, Jansson C, Svanberg AS, Darj E, Stavreus-evers A. Longitudinal study of emotional experiences, grief and depressive symptoms in women and men after miscarriage. Midwifery. 2018;64:23-28.  doi:10.1016/j.midw.2018.05.003

By Elizabeth Czukas, RN, MSN
Elizabeth Czukas is a writer who who has worked as an RN in high-risk obstetrics, antepartum care, and with women undergoing pregnancy loss.