In the modern economy, most pregnant women that have jobs will work right up until their due date. If your new Doula client is one of these women you can start providing some informational support immediately with some of these tips.
Informing management of the pregnancy
If she is contracting with a Doula she is probably already showing and her boss (or at least her coworkers) may already know she is pregnant, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the mother doesn’t have a lot of face-to-face contact with her supervisor, or she may have simply known she wanted her birth to be awesome so she is contracting with a Doula early. Whatever the reason, if her boss doesn’t know yet, there are some things she should consider before letting them know.
Her boss should hear about the pregnancy from her, not from her coworkers or HR or union rep. In fact, her supervisor should be the first person at her work to know about it.
Before approaching her manager she should already know what time she will need off for prenatal care, that is to say, the routine medical care she needs during her pregnancy.
No woman’s job is so important that she can’t take time off for her prenatal checkups-making sure both she and her baby are healthy is the first priority.
In the beginning, she will be looking at just one checkup a month, but as her pregnancy develops she will have to go more often, so she may need to talk to her boss about how to make up that time.
If she works with or around strong chemicals or if her regular tasks involve heavy lifting she should also ask her supervisor to change her job responsibilities during pregnancy. If at all possible she should avoid standing all day too.
Planning maternity leave
Maternity leave is the time the mother takes off from work when she has her baby. As her Doula, you can provide informational support by helping her plan to use this time efficiently. Here are some questions you can ask her:
When does she want to start her leave? Does she want to work right up to the due date, or does she want to stop a few days or weeks before to get the house ready?
How long would she like to stay home with the baby after he/she is born? Can she afford to take more time, or does she have to go back to work right away?
Just like the Birth Plan, the plan she makes for her maternity leave is subject to change depending on her pregnancy. For most women, pregnancy, and birth go fairly smoothly, but sometimes there are interventions that might require more recovery time or extended hospital stays, and that can definitely impact the maternity leave schedule.
Family and Medical Leave Act
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (also called FMLA), employees can take time off without pay for pregnancy- and family-related health issues. She can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year and she can keep her health insurance during her leave if she:
- Works at a location where her employer has 50 or more employees within 75 miles
Has worked for her employer for at least 12 months
Has worked at least 1,250 hours of work over the past 12 months
In addition to the FMLA leave, her employer may have their own maternity leave policies. She should make sure she knows exactly what those policies detail. For this, she can ask to speak to someone from her employer’s HR department, if they have one.
Some good questions to ask about the employer’s maternity leave policies are:
- Does the company offer paid maternity leave? Some large employers offer paid time off for the birth, but they might not volunteer this information, in fact, your supervisor might not even know that! That is why big companies have HR departments after all.
- Does the company health insurance continue while she is on maternity leave? What does the plan cover?
- Does her employer offer other accommodations such as flex time or telecommuting when she is ready to go back to work? Flextime is an arrangement that allows an employee to alter the starting and/or end time of her/his workday. Employees still work the same number of scheduled hours as they would under a traditional schedule. It is also a flexible work option for positions that do not easily support remote work.
- If the mother is planning on breastfeeding is there a safe and comfortable place where she can do this? Some larger companies have designated spaces for this, in fact, if they have more than 50 employers they are required to have it. The breastfeeding area is a private space that is not a bathroom that you can use to pump breast milk.
You should also prompt your client to ask about the EAP. You may remember from the Birth Doula course that the EAP (employee assistance program) can help connect the mother with professionals like counselors, child care providers and lactation consultants. If you have already completed the Madriella Breastfeeding Educator course be sure to let her know that you have had special training to help women breastfeed, even women who may have special breastfeeding problems.
Make sure your client knows that she should talk to her boss about maternity leave well before her due date. The sooner she starts the conversation about ways to manage her work responsibilities with her new condition, the less of an impact it will have on her employer and the better it will be for her.
If she has special work projects coming up she should do her best to get as much done as possible before her time off. Prioritizing tasks can really help with this.
Lastly, make sure that your client knows that she is protected by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This law says that employers can’t discriminate on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or other related health conditions. So if she is pregnant or affected by pregnancy-related conditions, her employer has to treat her just like any other employee with a similar condition.