How to balance work and wellbeing when it matters most.
Your last work weeks before maternity leave are bound to be both greatly anticipated and quite stressful. There’s pressure to complete all your work, hand over to your colleagues and ensure everything will roll on smoothly without you, all while you’re experiencing a host of physiological changes. Cue swollen hands and feet, lower back pain, pelvic pain, insomnia, heightened emotions, exhaustion and, you know, general anxiety about the giant life change you’re about to go through. You might not experience all of these symptoms, but at the very least you’re going to have the extra weight of a bump and internal kicks to deal with. Here’s our guide to getting your work/life balance right during your last trimester.
Keep your manager in the loop
Most women who’ve had a baby can provide you a list as long as their arm of what they didn’t know about pregnancy before they went through it, and on top of that, every pregnancy is different. Don’t expect your manager to pre-empt what you need. This is a time when you need to stay vocal and lead the conversation of what you need to get your job done. If that’s different hours, flexible workplaces, less travel — speak up. Your employer is obligated to provide you a safe work environment and will want to make things as easy as possible for you, so you can be as productive as possible for them.
Get a uniform
As your pregnancy progresses, getting dressed for work can become increasingly difficult. The best way to do it: get a few things that will grow with you, that you feel good in, and wear them on repeat. Brain power is at a premium in the last trimester, don’t waste it on trying to pull together outfits. If your workplace has particular work attire requirements that you won’t be able to meet, talk to HR ahead of time about bending the rules during your pregnancy.
Keep up your supplies
The pregnancy thirst is real! Never have you needed water like you need it now. It helps with inflammation, easing aches, supports a healthy amniotic fluid level and prevents the dizziness and headaches that come with dehydration. A tube of Hydralyte comes in really handy around this time. Keep water on you always, and stock your desk with healthy snacks so that if your lunch break gets pushed back, you don’t go hungry. It’s also smart to keep a supply of sanitary pads, change of underwear and even nursing pads at your desk just incase. You never know what that third trimester might throw at you.
Rethink your commute
If your usual commute involves walking or public transport, it might be a bit too exhausting in your last weeks. Try carpooling with a colleague, arranging a parking space or ask for flexible working hours so you can make your way in when the buses/trains/trams are less full. If your work is suitable for it, ask to work from home more frequently. Bypassing the hassle of getting ready and getting in to work can mean you have a lot more energy for actual work. Plus, unless your desk is by the bathroom, your frequently required toilet breaks are a lot speedier at home.
If you spend most of your week in meetings, “Do you run on time?” is one of the most important questions to ask potential obstetricians or GPs, because spending an hour in a doctor’s waiting room isn’t going to work for you. Hospital appointments are less likely to run to plan, but you can schedule your check-ins in advance for days or times that are less busy at work. Appointment days are great opportunities to work from home or have off altogether — sick leave is there to be used.
Plan your leave
If it’s possible, keep your last day approximate until it gets closer. Your employer will require a doctor's note if you plan to work past 34 weeks, and you may feel good to work much closer to your due date. Conversely, your pregnancy journey might require you to finish earlier. Work towards an expected date and keep your manager and HR team informed of any changes. Make sure you schedule an approximate return to work date and a six-month check-in with your manager before you go on leave.
Hand over early
Every workplace if different, but if you have the opportunity, it’s in your best interest to assist in planning your replacement. Whether that’s a new hire or restructure of your existing team, being involved means you can plan how you’ll fit back in when it’s time to return to work. Having this organised nice and early gives you maximum opportunity to hand over and less pressure to work up until your planned finish date if you wish to finish earlier.