Many women think the best use of maternity leave is to save as much as possible for after the baby is born. But it’s worth thinking about whether you’d like to have some time before the birth, to relax and prepare for your baby.
You can start your maternity leave any time from 11 weeks before the beginning of the week your baby is due – or you can work right up to your due date.
However, Tommy’s midwife Sharon Simms says, ‘Most women should give up by about 36 weeks. Remember that babies can come early – and a baby is considered on time from 37 weeks.
‘Some women feel a little bit lost for the first couple of days of maternity leave but then they start to relax and think about the baby. Having that time to rest and nest is important, and feeling relaxed can result in an easier birth.’
Everyday stress won’t affect your baby, but prolonged severe stress has been linked to premature birth, low birth weight, a lower IQ and behavioural problems. So if you have a stressful job, consider stopping sooner rather than later.
You are entitled to statutory maternity leave of a year. You have to tell your workplace when you intend to leave work, at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week your baby is due.
If you decide to change your leaving date, you have to give 28 days’ notice.
Even if you are feeling full of beans in those middle months, remember that by eight months, a crowded train may be the last place you want to be.
Check out www.direct.gov.uk for the latest advice on maternity rights.