Maternity - Pregnancy Care, Pregnancy Maternity Leave and More
It's Official - You're Pregnant
The pregnancy test has confirmed it - you're pregnant and you're thrilled about it. There's so much to think about now. Pregnancy means maternity clothes, baby things, and...telling your boss about your pregnancy and arranging maternity leave. Since you're working full-time and expecting a baby, maternity leave is something that must be considered and planned. In the US, actual paid maternity leave is unusual - like in other countries where it is normal to have paid maternity leave. However, some companies in the US do offer new parents paid time off, often about six weeks.
Maternity Leave - For Both Parents
Currently referred to as parental or family leave, this is the time a mother, or father, takes time from work for the new baby. The end of a pregnancy may mean paternity leave for a father, something that is more common now than in previous times. In the US, the maternity leave will usually be combined with short-term disability, sick leave, vacation, personal days, and unpaid family leave to help fund the time away from work to be home with baby. Employees of larger companies may enjoy the benefits of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which allows for up to 12 weeks of job-protected medical leave for a birth or adoption. But people who work for smaller companies often do not qualify for this benefit.
It seems odd that pregnancy and motherhood should seem to be penalized. Depending upon which state a woman lives in will determine the type of benefits she can take advantage of. Not all states allow women to use short-term disability to cover pregnancy, birth of the baby, and postpartum recovery time. The important thing is to begin looking into the options you have early in your pregnancy so contingencies can be made, paperwork sorted out, and stress levels manageable before baby arrives.
Federal Guidelines for Maternity Leave
According to Federal guidelines, a leave must be requested 30 days before it is taken. However, in the case of pregnancy, it is a good idea to bring your boss onside as soon as possible after you've waited out the first 12 weeks when miscarriage risk is at its highest. Once you've passed that time, and have given enough thought to your work schedule after the baby is born, then approach the boss. If you have a plan for work and allow enough time to have it implemented, your position with your boss will be much stronger. Check in with other staff who have already gone through the process to see how they handled it and how it was received.
When to Stop Working
There are no rules about when to stop working. Maternity leave is usually when the pregnancy is in the third trimester, close to the due date. However, that will depend upon energy levels, if there are any complications, and the type of work you do. Another factor is the financial picture of your home. By starting maternity leave before the pregnancy is in the third trimester, the leave will run out very soon after the baby is born. You will have to monitor your pregnancy, your stress levels, and how you and your baby are weathering the working challenges in order to know when to take your leave. Some women work right up to the last day while others take their leave in the seventh or eighth month. If complete bed-rest is ordered by the doctor, then short-term disability becomes viable.
If you qualify under FMLA or provisions made by the state, you've given proper notice and you've covered your responsibilities adequately, and your employer denies your request for unpaid leave, or threatens that your job will be gone if you take a leave, then advise your employer of the laws of FMLA. Contact the US Department of Labor for advice and fact sheets to help educate your employer. Be reasonable and you will likely find your employer will respond in kind.