When to Return to Work After Giving Birth

When should you go back to work?

One of the biggest decisions for a working mother is when to return to work after their baby is born. Some mothers have their minds made up, whether for personal or financial reasons, to return to work just 6 weeks after the baby is born. Other mothers struggle with the desire to stay at home to raise their baby, often worrying about the financial stress the extended maternity leave could have on family and personal finances. The ultimate decision about when to return to work after birth depends on many factors, all of which should be taken into consideration before making the final decision. 

The six-week waiting period

In most cases, women are allowed to return to work at six weeks postpartum. This is when doctors release a patient from obstetric care and when infants are allowed to be enrolled in daycare. Many women fight with the idea of when to work after giving birth. Physical preparedness is not the only consideration when making the decision to go back to work after having a baby.

The recovery process

Your body goes through some amazing changes during pregnancy. After giving birth, more changes occur, including a sudden drop in hormone levels, shedding of excess water retained during pregnancy and a return to normal blood volume. These changes can cause extreme fatigue, in addition to the adjustment of having a new infant in the home. Most women wait about six weeks from their baby’s birth date to return to work, though some doctors will clear a new mother for work as early as three weeks postpartum. Complications during delivery or C-section may prolong recovery time.

Mental recovery process

Dropping hormone levels often lead to mood swings and bouts of sadness called baby blues. Most women recover from baby blues within the six-week recovery period, though some women experience emotional issues longer than the initial six weeks. If you have feelings of sadness or depression during the postpartum period, contact your doctor to talk about your feelings and learn how and when to seek additional support. 

Preparing to return to work

Once you’ve decided when to go back to work, you need to prepare for your actual return. Contact your employer and give them your estimated return date. If you need flexible scheduling or you wish to return only part-time, discuss it prior to the end of your maternity leave so all details are worked out before your leave ends. Some options for flexible scheduling include working from home, working fewer, longer days per week or working a flexible schedule that gives you the freedom of choosing when and where to work. Not all options are available with all employers, which is why it is important to bring it up as soon as you’ve decided when to go back to work.

Arranging childcare

Childcare options are plentiful and varied. Some new parents choose a daycare or personal childcare in the home. Other parents choose to work opposite schedules so there is always one of you at home. Still, other parents choose to lean on relatives to care for their baby during the day in order to eliminate the need for formal daycare. Discuss the various options early on with your partner and make sure you both feel comfortable with the decision.

Taking time for the family to start anew

If you’ve been working with the same company for many years and desire a change, maternity leave may be the most opportune time to make that change. Some new mothers choose to cash out stock options and retirement plans to start a home business or go back to school during extended maternity leave. The time off gives mom more time with baby and allows her to make a new start. 

Choosing when to return to work after maternity leave requires thought and financial planning before making a final decision. FMLA allows 12 weeks maternity leave, after which time you will have to make a final decision about when or if to return to work. 

Read More:
Pregnancy, Maternity Leave, and the Work-Family Conflict
When to Stop Working During Pregnancy
Postpartum Guide