Deciding Whether or Not to Work Until Your Due Date

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As you approach your due date, you may wonder when to stop working and start your maternity leave. This decision hinges on several factors, mainly depending on your medical, financial, and personal situation.

Some people prefer to stay busy at work up until their due date, or have a financial obligation to remain working as long as possible. Others use their due date as a firm "end date." Even if you want to stay working as long as possible, health concerns can render it too difficult or unsafe to continue beyond a certain point.

If you'd prefer to give yourself some lead time to relax and prepare for your new arrival, that's OK too. There isn't one right decision for everyone. When making your choice, it can help to keep the following considerations in mind.

Medical Considerations

For a high-risk pregnancy with twins or complications such as preterm labor, you may need to take off work sooner than later. Even a healthy pregnancy is physically taxing it itself, so pay attention to how you feel as time goes on.

There are certain conditions in pregnancy that may require bed rest. Bed rest generally leaves working out of the question, since you aren't allowed to sit in a chair for more than 1 hour at a time. Standing may be limited to 1/2-hour increments at most.

Situations that might prompt your doctor to place you on bed rest include:

  • Carrying multiples: Carrying two or more babies puts additional strain on your body.
  • Cervical effacement: Thinning of the cervix may put you at an added risk.
  • Fetal development concerns: If your baby isn't growing as expected, you may need to slow down at work.
  • History of complications: Premature birth, stillbirth, or fetal loss in the past can be reason to go on bed rest.
  • Incompetent cervix: A weak cervix can mean going into early labor.
  • Preeclampsia: A combination of protein in the urine, high blood pressure, and swelling is dangerous for you and the baby.
  • Premature labor: Bed rest may slow the progression of early labor.
  • Vaginal bleeding: This may indicate concerns with the placenta.

Even if bed rest isn't required, you should still discuss the demands of your daily life with your doctor. Provide full details about what you're required to do at work and home, including how your job impacts your stress level.

How Do You Feel?

If you're dealing with sleepless nights, swelling, back pain, or other concerns, brainstorm ways to make work more comfortable before taking your maternity leave early. If it's possible to modify your workplace or schedule, that might help. Perhaps you can wear more comfortable shoes, get a different chair, bring a fan for your desk, take more frequent breaks, or work an earlier shift.

What's Your Commute Like?

If your commute requires a long car ride during rush hour, it may be adding another layer of stress (and risk) to your day. Standing on the train or subway, or waiting outside for the bus, may also become more difficult to manage as your pregnancy progresses. If you have no choice but to go into work, and your commute it taking a toll, an early maternity leave might make the most sense.

Financial Considerations

The details of your maternity benefits and your family's financial needs will likely play a role in your decision. If your leave is unpaid, you may want to delay your last day of work as long as possible. Even if you will be paid during your leave, you may want to preserve your time off to use after your baby arrives.

Saving up some extra money if possible to allow some leeway at the end of your pregnancy is always a good idea. Nonetheless, you should never compromise your health and safety for finances.

How Much Time Off Do You Get?

If you only have six weeks off, leaving work before or at your due date will start running down the clock before the baby is born. If you go two weeks overdue, that leaves you only four weeks with your newborn. You may wind up requiring two weeks of unpaid leave if your baby isn't old enough for daycare or other child care options.

Career Considerations

If you're not quite ready to start maternity leave but are struggling to get through your typical workday, discuss your concerns with Human Resources or your manager. Pregnancy is a human right, and employers should be understanding of your medical and family needs.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Pregnancy discrimination is illegal. You should never feel forced to take maternity leave early, and your employer should make reasonable accommodations to ensure a safe working environment during pregnancy. Enlist the advice of your OB/GYN if you have questions about the safety of your working conditions during pregnancy.

Perhaps you can come up with a flexible arrangement that includes part-time hours or telecommuting. While not available for every type of job, the option to work from home can greatly reduce the physical and mental burden of working during pregnancy.

Plan ahead, and approach the discussion with suggestions that emphasize your value as an employee. Explain how a flexible arrangement will benefit your employer. Some employers are more family-oriented than others. If you're not able to come up with an arrangement that you feel good about, consider your other options.

Is This Job Still a Good Fit?

When push comes to shove, if you're not happy in your job or their flexibility with you, it's worth asking yourself whether an unsupportive work environment is worth your while. Although interviewing while pregnant or shortly after giving birth isn't easy, it might be something to consider.

Keep in mind that you're unlikely to qualify for maternity leave at a job where you just started. However, you may want to use your time off from your current role to shop around for a position that works better for your growing family and personal needs. Having a flexible employer is beneficial not only during pregnancy but also as a new parent. Never feel stuck in a situation that isn't right for you.

A Word From Verywell

While the choice of when to start maternity leave is ultimately up to you, talking to your partner, friends, family, and healthcare provider can help you make the right decision. You should be able to discuss maternity plans or concerns with your employer without fear of negative judgement or backlash.

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Article Sources
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  1. Cleveland Clinic. Pregnancy bed rest. Updated September 24, 2018.

  2. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Employment considerations during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Updated April 2018.