When making a decision about when to leave work, keep in mind that you'll feel the most discomfort and fatigue during the first three and the last three months. Many women feel full of energy during the second trimester.
Before you breathe a word of your exciting news at work, you should think carefully about the consequences and repercussions that might follow this announcement. Although the law is on your side, not all employers greet the news with open arms, so be prepared with a plan of action that explains the steps you'll take to keep up your workload, any changes you'll need to institute, when you plan to leave, and when you expect to return. Having a plan is good for your company and good for you. You'll be perceived as more of a professional, and you'll put yourself in a better position to negotiate, if necessary. Before you open your mouth, have answers to these questions ready:
Before you can suggest a leave date, consider your personal and medical needs as well as the demands of your job. If you work in a toxic environment (in a computer chip factory, a tollbooth, or a printing shop, for example), you might want to leave immediately. If your work is very physical, you might need to leave after your sixth month; if you have a relatively nonstressful desk job, you might be able to work right to the end. Your medical condition has to be considered as well. If you have a high-risk pregnancy you might be required to leave work very early in the pregnancy. Because of all these variables, you should always begin your statement about your leave date with the words, "Assuming no unusual medical conditions arise."
It's always a good idea to show that you've thought about the company's needs. Present a plan for how your job can be handled during your absence and how you might be able to train the person who will take on your responsibilities. Will you train someone already in the company? Will you come back a few days after your leave begins to help out a new person? Will you be able to do any work from home? Offering a training plan makes you a valuable team player.
Working while pregnant is not going to be exactly the same as working before pregnancy. Don't try to be a superhero and pretend that nothing will change and nothing will get in the way of your job. You might have morning sickness (all day long). You might get tired and distracted easily. You might need to leave work for various prenatal tests or medical appointments.
Although you don't want to scare your boss with all these possibilities right off the bat, you should mention the possibility of needing occasional time off. Bringing this up right in the beginning gives you the opportunity to be professional, be above board, and offer assurances that you will always get your work done. You might say something like, "Certainly, we both realize that I will miss work from time to time, due to medical needs. I want you to know that if that should happen, I will let you know in advance, if possible, and make sure the work gets done when I return."
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth © 2004 by Michele Isaac Gliksman, M.D. and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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