Monday, 19 September 2011

Working families helpline

The Working Families helpline team are there to answer your frequently asked maternity questions.

Some common maternity questions are nothing to worry about and some are. The Working Families helpline team is on hand to explain where you stand on all your maternity rights. Below are some typical queries and the answers you will need.

“I haven’t had anything in writing from my employer about maternity leave or pay”.

Don’t worry. Employers are supposed to write to you once you have given notice for maternity leave to let you know when your maternity leave will end, but lots of employers forget. The reason employers are meant to write to you is so you know when your maternity leave ends, so if you come back a day late they can discipline or dismiss you. If they don’t write then you may have protection from dismissal if you do get the return date wrong. Your employers do not have to write to confirm that you will get Statutory Maternity Pay, although it is good practice to do so. They do, however, have to write to you if you are not entitled to SMP.

“My employer isn’t going to cover my job during maternity leave and I’m worried he won’t want me back”.

Your employer doesn’t have to cover your job while you are away and lots of employers choose to save money by dividing the work among colleagues. This shouldn’t affect your right to go back to your job and if you are dismissed because the employer prefers the way the job was done while you were away then this will be an act of discrimination.

“I just started my maternity leave, my employer sent me a P45 but said that he would re-employ me after I’d had the baby”.

This is wrong. You should not be dismissed for a reason to do with maternity leave. You are still an employee when you are on maternity leave, and still get all your rights under the contract except for pay.

If you have any concerns at all about your maternity rights, call the Working Families team on the confidential freephone legal helpline 0800 013 0313.

Working Families is a work-life charity.
Visit for further information. 

Grandparents give £33 billion of free childcare

Millions of grandparents are taking on the role of 'second mum and dad' to their grandchildren, helping out with everything from childcare to cooking family meals.

New research from Aviva suggests that around half of all UK grandparents now look after their grandchildren and help around the house while mums and dads work. Of these, 99.5% do so without pay. The study shows that on average, each grandparent will care for two children for around thirteen hours a week. This amounts to an estimated saving of more than £33 billion for UK parents each year.

However, these grandparents are feeling the pressure as a result of their kindness:
• 32% feel guilty if they ever say "no" to looking after their grandchildren.
• 30% actually cancel their own plans to mind their young charges.
• 23% feel taken for granted at times.
• One in eight feel financially worse-off as a result of looking after their grandchildren.
• One in twenty say they would like to do more paid work but can't because of childminding duties.

On a more positive note the vast majority of grandparents see clear emotional benefits to helping out their families:
  88% feel closer to their grandchildren because of the time they spend with them.
• 59% say they are more patient with their grandchildren than they were with their own children.

Many of us would find life far more difficult without our parents to help us out, so buy them a bottle of wine or some flowers today to show your appreciation!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Recognising a stroke

Sometimes symptoms of a stroke are difficult to identify. Unfortunately, the lack of awareness spells disaster. The stroke victim may suffer severe brain damage when people nearby fail to recognise the symptoms of a stroke.

Now doctors say a bystander can recognise a stroke by asking three
simple questions:

S Ask the individual to smile.
T Ask the person to talk and speak a simple sentence (coherently).
R Ask him or her to raise both arms.

If he or she has trouble with any one of these tasks, call the emergency services immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

Another sign of a stroke is a crooked tongue. Ask the person to stick
out his tongue... if the tongue is crooked, if it goes to one side
or the other, that can also be an indication of a stroke.

Ten quick reading tips

 1. Read to your child every night, even if it's only a couple of pages. This is probably the most important way you can help your child get into reading. And they love it!
2. Follow the words with your finger or corner of a bookmark as you read. Over time you can deliberately not say a word and wait for your child to say it. Pick easy words at first.
3. Ask your child to read to you at breakfast time. This could be homework reading or their chosen book. Children are fresher in the morning. This can be difficult but if you work five to ten minutes reading into your routine at breakfast your child will benefit.
4. Have a chart to tick each time the reading is completed. Give lots of positive comments and feedback. Smile and be calm. If you are frustrated, image how your child feels. Remember it will get easier. Reward the reading at the end of each week.
5. Variety is the spice of life - find your nearest second-hand book shop or visit car boot sales. Choosing a new book every week (which probably won't set you back more than 30p or so) is a wonderful reward, a great trip out and all part of the reading experience.
6. A personalized bookmark can make the book you are reading very special.
7. Read your own books and magazines while your children read. Children learn by example. Curl up on the sofa with the paper, a magazine or a book and encourage your child to do the same with their book, even if it is just for five or ten minutes.
8. Cut out interesting articles from the newspaper that would be of interest to your child - funny or serious - football, animals, local people or places they know. Read them out loud, pointing to the words. Pursue any discussion that follows - this is a great vocabulary builder.
9. Talk with your child's teacher. If you are concerned that your child is not reading as competently as you would expect, discuss this with their teacher. Agree a way forward with objectives and time frames.
10. Play word games on the go - in the car, restaurants, waiting rooms... I spy; word association (first word you think of when I say 'cat'); make a sentence using each letter in turn of the car registration plate in front.
supplied by

The heartbeats of a mother and foetus synchronise

This previously unknown connection - discovered by scientists at the University of Aberdeen and Witten/Herdenke University in Germany - has paved the way for a new technique to detect development problems during pregnancy.

The findings show that synchronisation between the heartbeats of a mother and foetus only occurs when the mother breathes rhythmically. If this synchronisation does not occur, it signals that something may be wrong with the development of the foetus.

This opens up the potential for early medical intervention to be taken whilst the child is still in the womb.

Dr Marco Thiel - one of a team of physicists from the University of Aberdeen who worked on the study said: "Pregnant mothers often report an awareness of a bond with their child, but until now there has been no hard evidence to suggest this bond is reflected in the interaction of their heartbeats. Our findings reveal that synchronisation between the heartbeat of a mother and foetus does actually occur - but only when the mother is breathing in a rhythmical fashion. The foetus can sense the rhythmical shift in the mother's heartbeat and adapts its own heartbeat accordingly."

Bladder weakness- time to break the taboo

It affects five million women in the UK, a quarter of all women over the age of thirty five have experienced it and high-profile celebrities from Helena Bonham Carter to Ulrika Jonsson, to Carol Thatcher, have spoken out about their experiences of it. So why is bladder weakness still considered taboo?

Bladder weakness is the accidental or involuntary leaking of the bladder. It can occur for a number of reasons, including pregnancy and childbirth, menopause, obesity, constipation or nerve damage.
Despite being so common, bladder weakness is a subject that people tend to avoid talking about, including those who suffer. Research has shown that only 46% of adults who suffer from bladder problems talk to their GP about it, and as many as 42% of all women who are incontinent in the UK wait an astonishing fifteen years before seeking treatment.

Janice Rymer, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at King's College London School of Medicine and at Guy's & St Thomas' Hospitals, says: "Those who suffer from bladder weakness are often embarrassed by the condition, and worryingly many women still suffer in silence. It is not until women accept and understand the problem that they are able to take steps to control it."

Janice's top tips to combat bladder weakness:
• Try pelvic floor exercises to help strengthen the muscles
• Try holding on for longer between toilet visits as continually emptying the bladder can reduce the bladder size, meaning it will hold less
• Drink plenty of fluids to avoid urinary infections and ensure the urethra is constantly being flushed out
• Be prepared by carrying a bag of essentials - spare underwear and pads along with some cleansing wipes to help you freshen up on the go.
• Try to maintain a healthy weight as being overweight can put pressure on the bladder
• Eat healthily and avoid alcohol and caffeine in your diet
• Don't suffer in silence! Be sure to visit your GP to discuss treatment options as infection should be ruled out.

Information supplied by 

Looking after mum-to-be

Giving birth makes many women feel apprehensive, particularly after you listen to all those scary birth stories that mums seem to be compelled to tell you when they know you are pregnant. You often just yearn for a calming influence and for unbiased advice based on knowledge.
There are of course a multitude of books, web pages and magazines to wade your way through. These do provide lots of information and have their place in your pool of knowledge. However, you may want to talk personally to someone who is a professional, who can offer you support and most importantly can tailor that support specifically to you. This is what your midwife or doula should be able to provide.

There are some wonderful midwifes in the NHS. However,  in some areas you can't be guaranteed to see the same midwife at each appointment, or at your actual birth. For this reason some women choose to book a private midwife or a doula. A private or independent midwife is a fully qualified midwife who has chosen to work outside the NHS on a self-employed basis. Independent Midwives UK represents the majority of independent midwives in the UK. Their website,, has lots of useful information for parents-to-be and a search facility to find your nearest independent midwife. The key belief of the association is that women should have continuity of care from a midwife who will support them throughout their pregnancy, birth and the early weeks of motherhood. Your midwife should get to know you and your family during your pregnancy, providing support and advice. By the time the birth comes along you should have a happy and trusting relationship which will make the birth much easier for you.

You may not have known about doulas until you were pregnant but they are the answer to many women's prayers. Doula is a Greek word meaning 'woman servant or caregiver'. Today, it has come to mean a woman who offers emotional and practical support to a woman, before, during and after the birth. Many people understand it as 'mothering the mother'. A doula does not have clinical experience but has a great understanding and knowledge of the needs of a mum-to-be and a new mum. A doula's role will vary from family to family, as they aim to fit in with any given situation. Generally, the doula will meet with the mum or mum and partner at least once before the birth, and will provide continuous support and reassurance during the labour. Many doulas also provide post natal support to the whole family so that they can concentrate on enjoying their new baby rather than worrying about practicalities once they return home. Post natal doulas will also provide emotional and practical support to the new mum, which can be very reassuring particularly if you don't have close family nearby. Not all doulas provide post natal support, whilst others specialise in this area. If you interesting in using a doula take a look at (the non-profit association of doulas) which should provide answers to many of your questions and allows you to search for doulas in your area.