Being pregnant at work

Lots of women work during pregnancy, some right up until their due date. Here are some things you can do to help make your pregnancy work at work!   

When’s the best time to tell your coworkers and boss that you’re pregnant?

You get to decide when to tell people at work that you’re pregnant. Some women wait until after their first trimester, when the risk of miscarriage is lower. Others can't wait to share the news and tell everyone right away. 

Whatever you choose, here are some things to think about when talking to your boss about your pregnancy: 

  • Make sure he finds out about your pregnancy from you. You don’t want your boss hearing about it from one of your coworkers. Let your boss be the first person at work to know you’re pregnant.
  • Tell her about time you may need away from work for prenatal care. This is medical care you get during pregnancy. It’s important to go to all your prenatal care checkups to make sure you and your baby are healthy. In the beginning you have checkups about once a month; you go more often as you get closer to your due date. Talk to your boss about how to make up time you may have to miss from work.
  • If you work with strong chemicals or do heavy lifting, ask about changing your job responsibilities during pregnancy. It’s important to stay healthy and safe at work, especially during pregnancy. Standing all day or working with things like pesticides or radiation may be harmful for you and your baby. Talk to your boss about doing different work while you’re pregnant to help keep you and your baby safe. 

How do you plan your maternity leave?

Maternity leave is time you take off from work when you have a baby. When thinking about maternity leave, ask yourself these questions: 

  1. When do you plan to start your leave? Do you think you’ll work right up until your due date? Or will you stop working a few days or weeks before your baby’s birth? 
  2. How long do you plan to stay home with your baby after birth? Do you need to go back to work right away? How long can you afford to stay home without working? 

You may have ideas about how you want your maternity leave to be, but your needs may change during pregnancy. Pregnancy, labor and birth go smoothly for most women. But you may need to change the timing of your leave if you have pregnancy complications or if things don’t go as planned. 

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (also called FMLA), employees can take time off without pay for pregnancy- and family-related health issues. You can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. You can keep your health insurance during your leave if you: 

  • Work at a location where your employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles 
  • Have worked for your employer for at least 12 months 
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours of work over the past 12 months 

In addition to the FMLA leave, your employer may have its own maternity leave policies. Talk to your boss or someone from human resources (also called HR). It’s a great idea to do this before you get pregnant, if you can. Ask these questions: 

  • Does your employer offer paid maternity leave? Some employers offer paid time off for the birth of your baby. Talk with someone from HR to find out if you have paid maternity leave. 
  • Does your health insurance continue while you’re on maternity leave? Health insurance helps you pay for medical care. If you get your health insurance through your employer, your HR person can tell you about what your insurance plan covers. You may need to change your health plan after your baby’s born to make sure he’s covered, too. 
  • Does your employer offer flex time or telecommuting for when you’re ready to go back to work? For example, can you work fewer hours each week or work from home at the beginning? And then increase your hours or your time in the office little by little over a few week?
  • Are there other programs or services that your employer offers to new moms? If you’re breastfeeding, find out if your employer has a lactation room. This is a private space (not a bathroom) that you can use to pump breast milk. Employers with more than 50 employees must provide this space for breastfeeding moms. Also, find out if your employer has an employee assistance program (also called EAP). An EAP can help connect you with professionals like counselors, child care providers and lactation consultants. A lactation consultant is a person with special training to help women breastfeed, even women who may have special breastfeeding problems. 

Talk to your boss about maternity leave well before your due date. Talk about ways to manage your work responsibilities while you're on maternity leave. If you’ve got projects coming up, think about how much you can get done before your baby’s birth. You may want to create a to-do list or a set of instructions so your job tasks are taken care of correctly while you’re out. 

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act says that employers can’t discriminate on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or other related health conditions. So if you’re pregnant or affected by pregnancy-related conditions, your employer has to treat you just like any other employee with a similar condition.  

Last reviewed: August, 2014