Primary school teachers' union, the INTO, has called for special leave to be available to teachers for reproductive health matters.

At its annual congress in Galway, teachers in the hugely female-dominated union recounted personal stories of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and fertility treatment.

The conditions are not covered by the current pregnancy-related sick leave scheme for public sector workers.

Delegates agreed that their union should seek a statutory leave entitlement to cover these areas.

Teacher and member of the INTO's equality committee, Josephine Doheny, told delegates of how she suffered two miscarriages in quick succession two years ago.

After her first miscarriage, in June that year, she said she had no option but to take sick leave, even though she said she was not sick, but grieving for her lost baby.

Speaking to RTÉ News, she said she was worried and stressed because she was concerned about eating into the limited paid sick leave - three months over a four-year period - that is available through the statutory sick leave scheme.

When she suffered a second miscarriage in late August of the same year, Ms Doheny said she had no option but to return to school in September, even though she was not ready, because otherwise the entire summer period would have been counted as sick leave.

She said that as well as being unfair on her, her return while still grieving was also unfair on the children she was teaching and on her colleagues.

"I was physically fine, but I wasn't emotionally fine," she said.

The INTO has said a survey of members shows that the lack of special leave for reproductive health-related matters is a significant issue for many members.

Ms Doheny said that after her own experience she discovered that at least one-third of the teachers working in her school had had similar experiences.

Six months ago, Ms Doheny gave birth to twin girls, Ellie and Sarah.

"I am one of the lucky ones. I know that", she said smiling. "Life is great for us at the minute."

Meanwhile, General Secretary of the Teachers Union of Ireland has said "full consideration" by the Government on the issue of pay equality is not enough.

Yesterday, Minister for Education Joe McHugh said his department would give "full consideration" in any future pay review, or in the next round of pay talks, to what it called "outstanding issues of concern" among "certain unions".

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, John MacGabhann said there were far too many contingencies built into the statement.

He said there are situations where schools cannot fill vacancies for a broad range of subjects because teachers have gone elsewhere over pay.

There has been a collapse in enrolment into the teacher training course, he said, which occurred precisely from the point that pay was cut for teachers.

He said for as long as the Government refuse to act on pay equality, the crisis will not just continue but will get worse.