Deciding Whether or Not to Work Until Your Due Date

Should you start your maternity leave before you deliver?

Pregnant woman helping coworker
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As your pregnancy winds down, you may wonder when you should stop working and begin your maternity leave. The decision hinges on several things, both personal and medical.

Some women prefer to keep busy at work or have a financial need to do so until they deliver. Others use their due date as a firm "end date" or allow themselves some time ahead of that to relax and prepare. Still others have health concerns that render it too difficult or unsafe to continue working past a certain point in their pregnancy.

There isn't one right way to go. To help make your decision, ask yourself the following questions.

How Is Your Pregnancy Going?

If you are experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, like twins, or other pregnancy complications such as preterm labor, you may need to take off sooner, rather than later.

You and your doctor or midwife should discuss what is healthiest for you and your baby or babies. Be sure to give your care provider full details about what's involved in fulfilling your job, from the physical activity required to your stress level and more.

How Are You Feeling in General?

If you're coping with sleepless nights, swelling and pain when you sit for a long time, or other concerns, you may want to consider alternatives if your pregnancy, overall, is a healthy one. You can certainly take the time off, but what about modifying your work space or schedule to be more accommodating? Could you take more frequent breaks, or come in later and stay later in the evenings?

How Much Maternity Leave Do You Have?

If you only have six weeks off, leaving work before or at your due date will run down the clock at a time when you might not yet have your baby. If you go two weeks overdue, that leaves you only four weeks with your baby. She may not be old enough to start daycare, if you plan to go back to work, so you may wind up taking two weeks of unpaid leave.

What Can You Afford?

The details of your maternity benefits and your family's financial needs will very 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 for after your baby arrives.

What Are You Going to Do With Your Time Off?

Before baby arrives, you might find that you're bored and impatient without the distraction your job offers. That can even be more stressful than working.

How Is Your Commute?

If your commute requires you to sit a lot in your car or stand for long periods on the train or subway, you may find it more and more difficult to manage as your pregnancy progresses. Again, starting your maternity leave prior to your due date may be the right choice.

How Flexible Is Your Employer?

If you can work partial days or telecommute, you might have the best of both worlds. Talk to your boss and stress that an arrangement like this will allow you to work longer. It's a win-win for both parties.

Look at all the issues surrounding when to start your maternity leave. Discuss them with your doctor or midwife and your partner or spouse, if you have one. Get ideas from your friends and co-workers. Then talk to your employer. There is usually a good middle ground.

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