When is the best time to stop work and go on maternity leave?
Frustratingly, there is no one answer to this question, either physically, medically or legally.
Anytime you do take before your child is born will count towards any maternity leave you are entitled to take. And if you are using up holiday before the baby arrives but you give birth early, you will lose the remaining holiday days and your maternity leave will begin immediately. However, you may want to rest, spend time with other children you have or simply enjoy a bit of pre-birth ‘nesting’.
If there are medical reasons for you to either give up work early or take extended periods off work, this might well count as a form of sick leave. Discuss this with your employer and your GP.
Common sense tells us that the type of job you do can most clearly affect when you should start your maternity leave. Whilst research into how very physical jobs affect pregnancy does not offer hard and fast proof that these jobs are a bad thing, strenuous jobs should be ruled out during pregnancy. You are legally allowed to ask for reasonable changes to your working conditions.
If your job involves standing for long periods, there should already be clear health and safety guidelines at your place of work, about duration of standing, lifting, and what conditions you are expected to work within. Ask your employer about changing your situation to prevent prolonged periods of standing.
Underweight women who do not gain much weight in pregnancy can risk having small babies and it might be advisable for them to reduce working hours and rest to increase their weight.
If your job is stressful, this can add to dangers like high blood pressure. Think seriously about how you can change your working situation. This does not mean ‘high flyers’ have to give up their jobs, but they should think about the rest of their lifestyle and find places in it where they can de-stress more. Perhaps giving up the lunchtime gym session for a massage or a swim, for example. And not spending weekends rushing about. Maybe try swapping to online food shopping rather than spending Saturday mornings at the supermarket.
Many women go into labour whilst they are still working and have perfectly healthy babies without any birth nightmares, so don’t worry if you feel you want to maximise the maternity time after your baby is born. However, do bear in mind time of year (will it be very hot when you are still working?) and your journey to work (commuters DON’t get up for heavily pregnant ladies every time!) when planning what you feel is right for you.