Advice on taking time off before baby?

I am trying to decide how much time to take off before my due date. Technically I could take up to 4 weeks (with reduced pay), but I am leaning towards taking off 1-2 weeks before the due date. Curious to hear about others' experiences / recommendations!

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I will only offer that I decided to take one week with my first child since everyone said "first babies are always late!" and then the baby arrived a week I ended up with no time off pre-baby, and instead was finishing up work while I was in labor so I wouldn't have to field calls with a newborn. The challenge to the maternity leave structure is that taking less time off ahead of delivery doesn't increase your time off post-baby at all--the clock switches to post-delivery disability leave as soon as the baby arrives. Wised up with baby #2 and worked a reduced schedule starting four weeks ahead of the due date so that I had some time off but still received full pay (called integration or coordination of benefits--EDD has a guide to this on their website). Second kiddo arrived two weeks early, so I was glad to have gone that route. Assuming your employer is open to this, I found it the best of both worlds (and did the same thing with both kids for the paid family leave period too). I did have to walk my relatively small employer's HR contact through the process, though.

I took off only 2 weeks and regretted not taking the full 4. Baby came one week early so I only had one week off. Even if baby came on his due date I still would have preferred to have the full 4 weeks. There are so many things you can do to prepare and more importantly, practice some self care by walking and if you’re into it, acupuncture or a pedicure. Also, it’s a use it or lose it- and it’s your right to use it since you’ve paid into SDI. 

If you can swing it, I would take off the full 4 weeks because as someone else said, it doesn't impact the amount of time you can take off post-baby.  We had recently moved so I had a lot to do, but those pre-baby days with no work were heavenly. I read, I snacked, I napped.  I unpacked from our move. I went to the beach.  I made tasty food. I really look back at that time fondly and would encourage anyone to take all of it. 

I am very happy I took 4 weeks out from due date off. I loved my pre-baby maternity leave and delivered both of my kids a little bit early. It was time I used both productively and to relax and it was amazing! It is also use it or lose it job protected leave - you can't decide to use it later. If you are under the cap on getting 60% of your salary as short term disability, it also probably won't be a huge pay cut (maybe 10-20% of your takehome) because it is not taxable money. If you are over that cap, the financial implications might be more extreme.

There is some evidence that taking time off before labor can reduce the probability of C-sections (all ways of giving birth are valid/meaningful, but most people would prefer to avoid needing to recover from a major surgery with a newborn!), although the study that was done ( didn't control as well as one could hope for socioeconomic issues (e.g. if you could afford to take time off before birth you might have less finanical stress than someone who couldn't, which could impact birth outcomes). In some Western European counties (e.g. Germany) taking 4 to 6 weeks off prelabor is very common, though, and it's also cited as an important factor in reduced C-sections and improved materal health. 

Leaving aside the research, my personal experience was that the last few weeks of being pregnant were a huge strain on my body - I was tired, not sleeping well, and generally not feeling great. I would not have been doing a good job if I were in the office, and the ability to rest my body for a couple of weeks before labor was really helpful for my mental health & to feel "ready" for the labor process. I know others, however, appreciate the distraction that working can provide in those last few weeks. So I think it can really vary!

I took two weeks off before my first, and it was the best two weeks ever. I had time to get everything ready, sleep lots, and relax before baby came. I worked in a high-stress environment so it was nice to forget about all that and not have to take care a baby yet for two weeks. If I were to do it over, I would’ve taken even more time. I do have friends who say they disliked having so much off before baby because they found themselves anxiously waiting for baby to come. 

Take at least 2 weeks. Reduced pay is a bummer but you are going to start feel more tired the last few weeks (more than you feel right now) and it will be nice to have planned ahead and have that time off. Also the “first babies are usually late” statistic is true but people have babies at 36,37,38 weeks all the time and your work should be prepared for you to be out as early as 36 weeks anyway and not  relying on you if they want a smooth transition. 

I was hesitant to take the time too but friends told me the above and I am so glad I did take 2 weeks pre due date  It’s an incredible benefit  the state of California offers. Enjoy these final few weeks!

My baby was one week late and I had taken two weeks off, so I ended up with three weeks off, and it felt a little long to me. I think two weeks is the sweet spot but it's hard to time it right because you never know baby's timing!

There is no easy answer because sadly babies don't come on schedule. If it's possible, you could ask your mother if you (and your siblings if you have any) were early or late. I've heard there is a correlation. We were all late and so were my babies and my sister's. The issue I had was that I was so anxious for the baby to be born (especially my first) that I had a hard time relaxing and preparing mentally for her arrival. But maybe that's just me. Another thing to consider is that by the end it is extremely uncomfortable, so sitting at a desk or commuting or doing any one thing for a long amount of time is a real pain in the rear (and everywhere else). I'm not sure if this is helpful, but some things to consider. 

My husband and I didn't take any time off before our (full-term) baby was born (worked through a Friday and had the baby on a Monday).  Our jobs were demanding and I wanted to wrap up a few more things ahead of time so that my team would be in good shape without me.  Plus I wanted to maximize how my time off overlapped with recovery and baby bonding -- while technically there are separate categories of leave, I took 17 weeks after birth and from an optics perspective, that already felt like a lot.  (I recognize that in many countries, 17 weeks is laughably short...)  While there's always more baby setup that can be done, I felt like time off after birth was much more valuable to me than time off before birth would have been, and I have no regrets.  Good luck!

I think it depends on your work situation. I took a week, baby arrived on schedule, so there were no issues. But I also wasn't in a work situation where I would have been in a bind if the baby had come early. Work urgency and hand-offs should definitely be part of the calculus.

Take it all (if you can afford it!). Being 36 weeks pregnant is no joke.  With my first kid i took 2.5 weeks and felt weirdly guilty about it. It was so hard for me to think of myself as something other than a worker.  With my second, I took every last moment I could get from paid leave and put it all to work.  Your kid could come at 37 weeks--take some time off for yourself, to get things ready, to try to find time to sleep despite the insomnia, to care for your body that's really hard at work. 

In my case, my babies were late--the second one, by two weeks, so I had 6 weeks off before the birth and then my disability and FMLA kicked in for the standard 6wks disability 8wks family leave.  I didn't regret a second of it.  

It is a very personal decision that depends on individual circumstances.  For example, if you are having a very tough pregnancy, you may prefer to take more time before the baby comes, simply because it is so difficult to work.  On the other hand, if you are having an easier pregnancy, you might opt to take more time after the baby comes, because maternity leave is never long enough (especially since it may take longer than you think to line up childcare).  For me personally, I had an easy pregnancy and planned to work up until week 39, but I got heartburn so bad I couldn't stop vomiting in week 38, so effectively was off starting then; was induced in week 41.

Hard to say since everybody's type of work has different demands, and one's own physical feelings are different. I had hyperemesis gravidarum for both my pregnancies (which was horrible until immediately after I gave birth), but continuing to work (teaching) really helped keep my mind on other matters. We actually timed our babies' due-dates, and thank goodness many things went according to schedule in the big scheme of things. Baby #1 ended up being 9 days early, but time-wise the semester had just ended, so a few remaining things were able to be finished even with a newborn. Baby #2 ended up being right on time, but also in-between semesters. In that case, I had a really miserable-feeling holiday break with nothing to think about except wanting the baby out of my body.  I can't comment on the employer allowances since I only had semester-contracts, and I have no idea how physical or intensive your own work might be, or how your pregnancy is going--but 4 weeks off in our pandemic/war-structured world with only my womb to think about sounds, well, depressing. If you do it, definitely schedule lots of activities that can be easily canceled!

If you can afford it, take the 4 weeks pre baby off. Life will not be the same after having the babe, so enjoy what you have left. Whether it be sleeping in, last min preparations- practice with the car seat, going out for a quiet meal, seeing a movie at the theater…do it! Taking less time off before does not increase your time afterwards. Congratulations! 

This is very work/personality specific.  How demanding is your job, how much do you need to get done before baby arrives, how tired are you? For my first baby, I took no disability and just worked lightly from home and used my sick time (which was required that I use before I could be on disability).  Baby was a week late. It was fine, but after baby arrived I did not have the capacity to think or do anything work related until months after birth.  Now I am due for second baby soon and I took the full four weeks of disability.  I know how crazy and hectic it will get when baby arrives.  I am using time to rest and organize.  At the same time it has been hard. I am used to working a lot and there was tons to get done before leave.  Its a delicate balance.  I would say to take at a minimum two weeks before due date.  But the full month, even at a reduced rate, is worth it.

Like another reply said it, babies can arrive early (or late), so your best plans may not work out exactly as you thought they would. My first baby came a week early, so I was in labor as I came home on BART from work and never got to take time off work before giving birth. My second baby was late and the doctor triggered it for me by stripping the membranes. I never wanted much time off before birth. My work is in front of computer anyway, and there's not much to prepare for the baby to come. The only truly critical thing is diapers and *maybe* a diaper pail, everything else is optional and can be bought later. What was hard for me is that there was not enough time to stay with my baby once he was born. So I tried to plan to take all of my time off after giving birth, although I don't remember if one gets one pot of hours for before and after birth or if those are counted separately.

I would take at least two weeks off, more if you still need to prepare. My last day was 12 days before my due date and I went into labor the next day!

I was so tired at 36 weeks. I really relished the time to take it easy, and focus all my energy on growing a human! But if it meant I couldn’t afford to take as long off post-baby, I’d prioritize that time. Given the opportunity to do both, it was valuable.

I took two weeks off before my due date, and wish I had taken more. I did not feel like hauling my whale like third trimester body into work (pre-Covid), and really didn't feel like it in the last month. You should take as much time as you can to just take a breath before the baby comes!

Congrats on your upcoming arrival! I had hoped to take 3 weeks off but my daughter arrived right at 37 weeks so didn’t end up getting any time at all. It’s hard to time perfectly since you don’t know if your little one will be early or late but generally I’d advise taking off as much time before as you can afford. I really wish I would have had more time before to be physically prepared for birth (eg lots of rest, not stressed about finishing up projects) and had the time and energy to wrap up a few things around the house before her arrival. I also didn’t anticipate just how physically uncomfortable I would be towards the end of pregnancy so sitting for 8-10 hours per day was tough. However some friends mentioned that they were glad to have something to focus on that wasn’t just baby prep, so I think the answer depends a bit on how much you can slow down at work before baby’s arrival and whether work keeps you engaged or causes stress.

I think I took off either 3 or 4 weeks. My nightmare was going into labor at work, so I wanted to have some buffer time. My baby ended up being 2 weeks early, so I’m glad I had the extra time. I was thinking I would use the time off before he was born to get things done around the house but in reality I was too tired from being 8 months pregnant to do much of anything except rest, which was fine and I was glad to not be at work and needing to rest. 

I planned on two weeks to wrap up getting things ready and then my labor started the next day :( 

So I’d say 4, or at least reduce your hours 4 weeks out. Those babies have their own timeline.

Similar to another poster, I planned to go out on leave at 38 weeks with my first baby, also with the logic of "first babies come late." Then,  at 36wks6d I had some complications requiring next day c-section. So I started my maternity leave a week earlier than planned and with one night advance notice to my job, and one night to do whatever other preparations we could.  I'd recommend going out on leave at 36 weeks or at least a reduced schedule. If I have another I'm going on leave at 36 weeks.

I took the 4 weeks before and was able to enjoy 3 of them. It’s a crap shoot. Your due date is an estimate and your baby will come when they’re ready. Good luck mama. 

If you can afford it, I'd recommend the full 4 weeks. First, if you could use some time to prepare for the baby's arrival, keep in mind it's perfectly normal for a baby to arrive up to 2 weeks early, and they certainly can come earlier than that -- so you might not have any time at all if you only take a week or two. Secondly, taking less time doesn't give you more time after, so the only reason I can think of not to take it is income. When I was in my last month, I felt so exhausted all the time, and could barely walk anymore my belly was so big, and shoes didn't fit at all except a birkenstock-style sandal, and I had to haul myself to the doctor twice per week for check-ups/baby monitoring -- I don't feel like I could have worked at the same time. In fact, those last couple weeks beforehand when I was still working were kind of challenging. Now everyone's experience is different and some people are find working right up until birth,  but I'd err on the side of caution. And if you end up still feeling great, you can treat yourself to naps and reading a book or watching a movie -- things you won't be able to do after the baby comes.

For me two weeks seemed to be the magic number for both of my would have been nice to have longer but financially this was less stressful and still allowed me some down time before their arrival. This was particularly blissful when it was my first and practical for my second as there was just so much to prepare that I didn't get time too.

If you can take the time off I felt it offered a nice transition between working brain and baby/birthing brain and to wrap up loose ends at work, etc.

I'm a workaholic but I took the full 4 weeks off. My government tech job subsidized part of it, and then I also got SDI from the state, so my wages were at 100%. (I ended up getting 5 weeks of disability because my baby was a week late!)

It was actually a great opportunity to "dry run" my 5-month maternity leave. When I found out I was pregnant, I was the only person on my entire team who could do what I was doing. That work had to continue while I was on leave, and it wasn't work I could do well with a newborn either! 

I alerted my boss early (texted her at the 8 week ultrasound hah), and we spent my entire pregnancy getting stuff out of my head and training other people. So the 4 weeks before the baby was a way for me to step away while still being available to help if needed. I told everyone that was the time to ask me questions, because I couldn't be expected to work with a tiny newborn. 😊 My team took my leave seriously and kicked me off of Slack!

It was actually great, because I shifted all of my mental energy from work to baby prep! And yeah, babies can arrive early. I was really expecting my little one to arrive 2 weeks early like I did. But no, she was a week late instead, oh well!

I did not plan on taking off any time before delivery (I planned to work up until I went into labor). This was not out of financial necessity but because I figured I'd be uncomfortable whether at home or work. Working filled my time with something. I had no desire to stay home (the nesting bug didn't hit me, and being home was pretty dull), so I think it depends on your preferences. I needed to be induced at 42 weeks, so I technically took off two days before my delivery date, but that was because of appointments and whatnot. I don't regret not taking time off at all. I do know others who've enjoyed being home and getting prepared. The decision is such a personal decision, and it depends on your personality, your financial needs, and the type of work you do (I'm an office worker). 

I would take the month if you can --- not only do babies come early, but you don't want to have to worry about transitioning matters/work stuff in general close to your arrival.  Take it from someone who was writing emails the Sunday before delivery, you don't want to deal with work matters. You want to focus on preparing for baby and relaxing! I was a non-believer pre-baby, but trust me, you will thank yourself later!

Take as much as you can. As others have said, it doesn’t impact how much you can take after and you never know when the baby will actually arrive. My experience was 3 weeks before with both pregnancies. My first came on their due date, the second was a week late. I was so tired by then I really enjoyed being able to nap, relax and prep. With the second, it did get a little long but the last week was so stressful (doctors appointments every other day, monitoring, trying to decide if/when to induce and my dr going awol due to their own health issue) that I couldn’t imaging having to try to work on top of it.