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When, if at all, Should You Start Your Leave?

Katlyn Joy |17, February 2014


In a perfect world, women would work as long or as little while pregnant. However, certain realities weigh on pregnant women. Job security is a big issue for many of us. Plenty of women live with the reality of taking time off means you are losing that job; you are replaceable. That may be true whether you are in a boardroom or a fast-food kitchen. Yes, we have FMLA, but it's not an ideally realized document, and so many employers know exactly how to get around its provisions.

For other women, it's a matter of money; plain and simple. Yes, I can take off late in my pregnancy but that means no real time at home later with my newborn. And every day not working, is a day without pay. Unpaid leave frequently means no leave taken for many American families.

Finally, there are women who hold positions that they feel fulfilled in and hate to miss out on vital projects or work and want to show up at the job every day. However, sometimes you develop a condition, such as preeclampsia or a problem with the placenta, or perhaps you are having difficulty with early contractions and threatened preterm labor. You have no choice but to stop working or risk yours and your baby's health.

Decision-making: What to Decide and When

First things first, when do you even let your employer know you're pregnant? In general, unless you require accommodations from day one due to health risks of your workplace, you may want to hold off until the end of the first trimester when the chances of miscarriage diminish significantly. Sometimes, however, symptoms of pregnancy have a way of forcing your hand, such as when you keep turning green and running to the restroom.

You want to tell before your body tells on you. Telling before the baby bump is prominent will be a wise choice in most instances, as it will provide you and your employer ample time to work out a plan for maternity leave.

If you have a job that you absolutely cannot afford to lose, you will feel your hands are tied when it comes to compromising but your health, your baby's health, are non-negotiable. Flexible schedules, job sharing, and even bringing baby to work in the first weeks may be possible for lots of women. If you want to quit once baby is born, hold off on that tidbit as financial realities may change your mind as the time closes in on you to resign. Actually, living on one income may seem more possible than reality proves so try it out before you are forced to do so.

When You Must Stop Working

  • Biology trumps all. You can't fight your body. There are some health concerns that make working while pregnant a big no-no.
  • If you are experiencing bleeding and threatened loss of pregnancy, maybe due to placenta issues or preterm contractions, you will likely be ordered to rest.
  • Should you have a chronic condition, such as high blood pressure, cardiac disease, diabetes or kidney disease, your physician is likely to severely limit or restrict work from your life in later pregnancy especially.
  • If you work in hazardous conditions, such as working with toxic chemicals or in positions that are likely to be dangerous, such as falls are likely or repetitious heavy lifting, you may be ordered to stay home.
  • Carrying multiples is a risk factor for preterm labor and complications, so you should be prepared to need to take an earlier maternity leave than you might like.

Ways to Make Work More Workable

1. Take the breaks you are allotted. Don't waste them; put your feet up, get hydrated and if possibly, grab a bit of shut-eye.

2. Change position often. Don't sit for hours on end, but rather get up and walk or stretch every hour or so. Don't stand in one place for too long.

3. When bending or lifting, use safe procedures to safeguard your back especially. Follow your doctor's orders on lifting limits, as well.

4. Keep well hydrated no matter your job. Pregnancy causes you to become dehydrated easily.

5. Bring nutritious snacks that help you ward off nausea and lightheadedness.

Related Articles

Matters of Maternity Leave

Would You Skip Taking Maternity Leave?

Preserving Memories in a Pregnancy Journal

Keeping the Peace With Your In-Laws When Expecting

So Soon? Pregnant With Baby Number Two


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