Charity calls for government to revamp maternity pay
The financial strain of having a sick or premature baby can last for many years, long after hospital discharge, research shows.
Premature baby charity BLISS are calling on the government to reconsider how they issue maternity and paternity pay when a baby arrives early.
Their survey has revealed that many mothers feel cheated out of their maternity leave as this starts from the moment of birth rather than a baby's due date.
Mothers with premature babies have therefore already used up much of their maternity leave by the time their baby arrives home from hospital.
Families on low income and those where one or both parents were self-employed were hit hard.
Many families reported that they accumulated considerable debt during the time their baby spent in hospital, and they still hadn't "caught up" many years down the line.
Andy Cole, chief executive of BLISS, said: "These findings are deeply troubling.
"Having a premature baby is already a traumatic experience without parents having to worry about how they will manage financially.
"Though the Department of Health's recent announcement that their new Health in Pregnancy Grant will be available to women from their 25th week of pregnancy is a positive sign that this government understands the importance of financial support for new parents, we would like to see this taken further by reconsidering the way maternity and paternity leave is calculated when a baby arrives early.
"BLISS is committed to working with policy-makers to find ways of lessening the financial burden for these families."