Body of Work

Fertility, Birthing, and Miscarriage

Multicoloured circular patterns

How can pregnancy and fertility affect individuals’ work? 

This second session of The Body of Work was on the theme of ‘pregnancy and fertility'. We discussed each of these experiences that are often made invisible in workplace practices.

We considered together how pregnancy and fertility can affect the working lives of individuals, and how reproduction comes to (re)shape organising. We considered physical and psychological perspectives on the topics and invited reflection on how experiences can be affected by intersecting elements of social positionality.

In this session, three academic speakers; Dr Astrid Huopalainen, Dr Suvi T Satama, and Dr Ilaria Boncori, contributed forms of knowledge about how the experiences of pregnancy and fertility are shaped by mechanisms of organizing.

Further, third-sector practitioners joined us as panellists to share their experiences of agitating for change. Their fields of expertise join together racism and its implications for mental health: both its antecedents and how we might support greater wellbeing.

This second session came to a close with a workshop in the afternoon, dedicated to Embodied Writing and led by Dr Deborah Brewis.

Watch the video

For each session in the series, we collaborated with a performance company to develop a video resource that can be used to illustrate the content of the research themes. These creative responses to each topic are aimed toward sparking discussion, debate, and the development of inclusive workplace practices. You may wish to show these videos, and use the additional resources we have collated, in your work workplace as a way of starting discussions around the issues depicted.

These are the 10 key learned lessons from this event that we would like to share with organizations.

  1. Every person has a different experience of fertility, birthing and miscarriage; organisations should be mindful of different circumstances.
  2. Policies are useful, and the naming of particular experiences such as miscarriage or stillbirth is important to acknowledge and support people who experience them.
  3. It is important that these life experiences are not ignored or silenced in the workplace as these are part of life and should not be perceived as being in contrast to notions of ‘professionalism’.
  4. One policy hardly ever fits all –it is important to create flexibility within policies to address individual needs.
  5. Issues around fertility,  pregnancy,  birthing,  pregnancy endings and baby loss can affect and marginalise some groups of people more than others –it is important to foster equity (acknowledging that people have different experiences, backgrounds, needs and circumstances) rather than equality (the same treatment for all).
  6. The impact of fertility, pregnancy, birthing, pregnancy endings and baby loss on women tends to be more severe due to the physical recovery needed.
  7. Line managers and policymakers need to undergo training to understand how best to support employees.
  8. Flexible work arrangements may be needed to accommodate medical checks,  recovery times, mental wellbeing and mourning.
  9. People are likely to expect and need different types and levels of support –it is important not to take these for granted and to have open communication with staff.
  10. If the provision of support is not available within the organisation, there are a number of external non-governmental institutions, charities and third sector organisations that may be able to help. Clear signposting is useful.


Dr Astrid Huopalainen

Lecturer and Postdoctoral Researcher

Organization and Management, ÅboAkademi University

Astrid’s research interests include feminist philosophy, bodily work, motherhood and children in relation to organization and management. Her current research focuses on organizational aesthetics, sociomateriality, and creative work, and she has an interest in qualitative research methods including ethnography.

Jen Coates (Sands)

Still Birth and Neonatal Death Charity, Charity

Founded in 1978, Sands exists to reduce the number of babies dying and to ensure that anyone affected by the death of a baby receives the best possible care and support for as long as they need it wherever they are in the UK.

Ruth Bender-Atik

Misscarriage Association, Charity

UK charity that offers support and information to anyone affected by miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or molar pregnancy. They offer a pregnancy loss helpline, live chat service and telephone support volunteers; our email support service; online support options; support groups; and leaflets.

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