So most women these days feel like it would be much better to have more time off after the baby is born i.e. to look after the baby, so choose to carry on working right up to or very close to their due date.
Makes sense right, may as well use my maternity leave more productively!
These were my exact thoughts in my first pregnancy. I finished working 2 weeks before my 'due date', and went 10 days 'overdue'.
However, knowing what I know now, I would have made a different decision. I'll explain why...
First of all, I'm going to talk you through what actually happens in your body to trigger your labour -and most importantly how this might be affected by working right up to your due date:
OK, lets start with the baby. When your baby is fully developed (i.e. able to breathe, feed, function outside of you) a protein is released from their body. This protein is detected by your body and its presence sends a signal that the baby is ready and your body can start getting ready to give birth.
In order for the contractions to start that are needed to birth your baby, your body needs to produce a hormone called OXYTOCIN.
This is super important. You cannot give birth without oxytocin. Oxytocin is nicknamed to happy hormone or love hormone, and we produce lots of it when we feel calm, happy and relaxed.
If you feel stressed, rushed, busy or anxious, you will start to produce the hormone adrenaline (I'm sure you've heard of this one!) and this will actually limit the amount of oxytocin your body can produce. Oh No!
Are you starting to get the picture? The more busy and stressed you are, the less likely you are to go into labour because of how it effects the hormones you need to give birth.
Induction rates in the UK are rising - currently between 30-40% of pregnancies are induced due to going 'over due'. That's really high!
But with most women choosing to work right up to their due dates, maybe that's why? Maybe your body needs some time to relax, de-stress and unwind before it feels ready and safe to release your precious baby into the world?
So, back to my original question, when should you start your maternity leave?
Well, how stressful is your job?
How busy are you physically and mentally?
When you take annual leave normally, how far into the holiday are you before you feel your body 'let go' and relax into it?
Do you think - knowing what you know now, that your body would feel rested and safe and ready to release your baby as soon as you finish working, or would it take some time?
I finished for maternity leave 2 weeks before my due date, and went 10 days overdue in my first pregnancy. If I was doing it again I would finish 4 weeks before my due date.
So, if you are hoping to avoid an induction, then have a think about when you want to start your maternity leave? The more rested and relaxed you feel, the more likely you are to go into labour when your baby and your body are ready.
A bit of food for thought! I hope that helps!
Take care lovelies, Lauren x