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Is 36 Weeks Too Early To Start Maternity Leave?

Is 36 Weeks Too Early To Start Maternity Leave?” is a comprehensive analysis of the factors influencing the decision to start maternity leave at the 36th week of pregnancy.

It explores the multidimensional aspects that can impact this decision, including the mother’s health status, work factors, emotional and mental health, and advice from healthcare providers.

The discussion highlights the benefits of starting maternity leave at this time, such as allowing the expectant mother some time to rest, prepare, and attend necessary medical appointments before labor.

However, it also brings to light the potential challenges, like limited time post-delivery, potential financial strain, and work considerations.

This examination delves into the importance of considering individual health status, including high-risk pregnancies and other health-related concerns. It acknowledges the role that work factors such as the nature of the job, workplace flexibility, leave policies, and financial implications play in the decision. Also Read How To Get A Doctors Note For Less Hours While Pregnant?

Furthermore, it emphasizes the emotional and mental health aspects, including managing stress levels, preparation for childbirth, and adjustment to upcoming life changes.

The ultimate conclusion of the analysis is that while the 36th week is a common recommendation for starting maternity leave, the decision should be individualized, taking into account each expectant mother’s unique situation and needs.

The focus should always be on prioritizing the health and well-being of both the mother and the baby while considering the practical realities of work and personal circumstances.

Is 36 Weeks Too Early To Start Maternity Leave?

Whether 36 weeks is too early to start maternity leave depends on a variety of individual factors. Some mothers might find it beneficial to start their leave at this point, while others may prefer to work longer or need to do so due to their circumstances.

Health Considerations: If an expectant mother is experiencing discomfort, fatigue, or health complications, starting maternity leave at 36 weeks might be advisable. This allows the mother to rest, attend necessary medical appointments, and prepare for labor.

Work Factors: The nature of one’s job plays a significant role in this decision. If a job is physically demanding or highly stressful, starting maternity leave at 36 weeks may be beneficial. However, if the work is less physically taxing or can be done remotely, some mothers might choose to continue working longer.

Maternity Leave Policies: The specifics of a company’s maternity leave policy can impact this decision. If the policy allows for a lengthy paid leave, an expectant mother might feel more comfortable starting her leave at 36 weeks. Conversely, if the policy is less generous or leave is unpaid, she might decide to work longer to maximize her time with the baby after birth.

Financial Implications: Financial considerations also play a part. If maternity leave is unpaid or only partially paid, a woman might choose to work as long as possible before the baby’s arrival.

Emotional and Mental Health: If an expectant mother is feeling stressed or anxious, starting maternity leave early can provide valuable time to relax, mentally prepare for childbirth, and adjust to the upcoming life changes.

Advice from Healthcare Providers: Healthcare providers can offer individualized advice on when to start maternity leave based on the expectant mother’s health status, the progress of her pregnancy, and any potential risks.

Understanding Maternity Leave and the 36th Week Threshold

Explanation of Maternity Leave: its purpose, average duration, and regulations

Purpose of Maternity Leave

Maternity leave is a period of absence from work granted to a mother before and after the birth of her child. It is a significant employment benefit that provides an opportunity for mothers to recover from childbirth, nurture and bond with their newborns, and adjust to their new roles as parents without the simultaneous demands of their jobs. Maternity leave can also promote gender equality by enabling women to maintain their careers while also fulfilling their roles as mothers.

Average Duration of Maternity Leave

The average duration of maternity leave can vary significantly across different countries due to different labor laws and cultural norms. For example, as of 2021, the United States does not mandate paid maternity leave, and the duration depends on an individual employer’s policies, although the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) ensures 12 weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees.

In contrast, many European countries have more generous policies. For instance, the United Kingdom mandates up to 52 weeks of maternity leave, with the first 39 weeks being paid at varying rates. Sweden provides 480 days of parental leave, which can be shared between parents, with most of it paid at 80% of the employee’s salary.

Regulations of Maternity Leave

Maternity leave regulations are country-specific and typically outlined in labor laws or similar legal provisions. These regulations can cover aspects such as the eligibility for maternity leave, its duration, the level of pay during leave, job protection, and the rights and obligations of both employees and employers.

In the United States, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons, which include the birth of a child and care for the newborn child.

In Canada, maternity and parental benefits are provided through the Employment Insurance (EI) system, and pregnant employees or new mothers can take up to 15 weeks of maternity leave. In addition, parents can share between 35 and 61 weeks of parental leave after the baby is born or adopted.

In the European Union, the Pregnant Workers Directive mandates that Member States ensure that workers are entitled to a continuous period of maternity leave of at least 14 weeks allocated before and/or after delivery.

It’s essential for expecting parents to familiarize themselves with the maternity leave regulations and policies in their specific country and at their workplace. Also, some companies may offer additional benefits beyond what is legally required, such as additional weeks of paid leave or flexible working arrangements upon return.

Finally, while the focus of this explanation has been on maternity leave, it’s worth noting that paternity and parental leave policies are also crucial in promoting gender equality and shared responsibilities in child-rearing. The specifics of these policies also vary widely around the world.

Why Some Expectant Mothers Consider the 36th Week for Maternity Leave

The 36th week of pregnancy is often considered a turning point for expectant mothers to begin their maternity leave, although the timing can vary greatly depending on individual circumstances, health status, the nature of their work, and the maternity leave policies in their respective countries or workplaces. There are several reasons why the 36th week is often chosen, both from a healthcare perspective and considering potential physical and psychological reasons.

Healthcare Perspective

From a healthcare professional’s point of view, the 36th week is often a sensible time for an expectant mother to start maternity leave because it is just a few weeks before the expected date of delivery. Most babies are born between 38 and 42 weeks, so starting leave at 36 weeks provides some time to rest and prepare before labor begins.

At this stage in pregnancy, physical discomfort is typically at its peak due to the baby’s size, making it more difficult for the mother to maintain regular work schedules. The third trimester is also when healthcare providers schedule more frequent prenatal visits, making it logistically easier for expectant mothers not to juggle doctor appointments with work commitments.

Physical Reasons

Physically, the last month of pregnancy can be particularly challenging. Common discomforts include backache, heartburn, shortness of breath, and sleep disturbances, all of which can be exacerbated by continuing to work, particularly if the job involves long periods of standing or high levels of stress.

There are also specific health conditions, such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, that can make it more difficult for a woman to continue working during the late stages of pregnancy. Starting maternity leave around the 36th week allows mothers to prioritize their health and well-being during this critical period.

Psychological Reasons

Psychologically, beginning maternity leave around the 36th week can provide expectant mothers with some much-needed time to mentally prepare for the birth and life with a newborn. This period can be used to attend childbirth classes, arrange the baby’s nursery, or simply rest and focus on self-care, which can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels.

Potential Challenges and Benefits Related to Starting Maternity Leave at 36 Weeks

Starting maternity leave at 36 weeks, a few weeks before the due date, can come with a mixture of challenges and benefits. These factors depend on a variety of conditions including the mother’s health, workplace policies, and personal preferences.


  1. Limited Leave Post-Delivery: If maternity leave policies are not very generous or are unpaid, starting leave earlier means less time spent with the baby after birth. Balancing the need for rest and preparation before delivery with the desire to spend as much time as possible with the newborn can be a significant challenge.
  2. Financial Impact: If maternity leave is unpaid or partially paid, beginning leave earlier can have financial implications. This could result in added stress during a time when financial stability is often more important than ever.
  3. Work Considerations: Depending on the nature of the job, leaving work at 36 weeks could leave unfinished tasks or handover complications. Some women might feel guilty or worried about leaving their team or their projects, particularly if there isn’t sufficient cover.


  1. Physical Rest: The third trimester can be physically challenging. Starting maternity leave at 36 weeks allows the body to rest and prepare for childbirth. This is especially beneficial for those with physically demanding jobs.
  2. Reduced Stress: Taking leave at this time can significantly reduce stress and provide expectant mothers with time to focus on their health, well-being, and preparation for the new arrival.
  3. Time for Preparation: Starting leave at 36 weeks gives mothers a few weeks to make any last-minute preparations for the baby’s arrival. This could include setting up the nursery, attending parenting or birthing classes, or preparing meals to freeze for the postpartum period.
  4. Mitigation of Health Risks: If there are any health risks associated with the pregnancy, taking leave earlier can provide a safety net, ensuring that the expectant mother is not overworking and has adequate time to attend medical appointments.

The decision on when to start maternity leave is highly personal and should be made considering both the potential challenges and benefits. The expectant mother’s health and well-being should be the highest priority, and it’s essential to have open discussions with healthcare providers and employers to make an informed decision that best meets the mother’s needs.

Factors to Consider When Planning Maternity Leave

Individual Health Status

The individual health status of an expectant mother plays a pivotal role in determining the most appropriate time to start maternity leave, including considerations for high-risk pregnancies, physical discomfort, and other health-related concerns.

High-Risk Pregnancies

High-risk pregnancies are those where the health of the mother and/or baby may be at risk. These can include pregnancies with multiple babies (twins, triplets, etc.), pregnancies in older mothers, and pregnancies in mothers with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

In these cases, healthcare providers often recommend that expectant mothers begin their maternity leave earlier to avoid potential complications that could arise from the physical strain or stress of work. This allows for more frequent monitoring, rest, and preparation, reducing the risk of preterm labor and other complications.

Physical Discomfort

The physical discomfort that comes with pregnancy can intensify in the later stages, particularly around the 36th week mark. This can include symptoms such as backache, shortness of breath, heartburn, swelling in the legs, and difficulty sleeping. For some women, especially those in physically demanding jobs, continuing to work during this time could exacerbate these discomforts and potentially harm the mother or baby’s health.

Other Health-Related Concerns

Other health-related concerns could include mental health issues such as antenatal depression or anxiety, which can be worsened by the stress of continuing to work late into pregnancy. In these cases, early maternity leave could be beneficial to ensure the expectant mother has ample time to rest, seek appropriate care, and prepare for the baby’s arrival.

Moreover, conditions such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, which can develop during pregnancy, may require mothers to start their leave earlier. These conditions require careful management and monitoring to prevent further complications.

Understanding Work Factors

In the context of maternity leave, several work factors can impact an expectant mother’s decision about when to begin her leave. These factors include the nature of her job, the flexibility of her workplace, the specifics of leave policies, and the financial implications of taking leave. Here’s a deeper look at these considerations:

Nature of the Job

The physical and mental demands of a job significantly affect the timing of maternity leave. If a job involves heavy lifting, prolonged standing, high stress, or irregular hours, it may be more challenging to continue working later into pregnancy. Conversely, if a job primarily involves sitting or allows for regular breaks, an expectant mother may choose to work closer to her due date.

Workplace Flexibility

Workplace flexibility plays a substantial role. If an employer allows for adjustments such as remote work, modified duties, or flexible hours, a pregnant employee might continue working longer than if these accommodations are not available. Good communication between the employee and employer is crucial to facilitate necessary adjustments.

Leave Policies

Maternity leave policies can vary greatly by country, state, and individual employer. It’s crucial to understand the specifics of these policies, including whether the leave is paid or unpaid, how much leave is available, and whether leave can be extended if necessary. This knowledge can greatly influence an expectant mother’s decision about when to start her maternity leave.

Financial Implications

Financial considerations are often pivotal. If maternity leave is unpaid or only partially paid, a woman might choose to work as long as possible before the baby’s arrival to maximize her income. On the other hand, if paid leave is available, she might be more inclined to start her leave earlier, especially if she’s experiencing discomfort or health issues.

Emotional and mental health aspects

The emotional and mental health aspects of expecting a child can be as significant as the physical changes. High levels of stress, anticipation of childbirth, and adjustment to upcoming life changes are critical factors that influence when an expectant mother might choose to begin her maternity leave.

Stress Levels

Pregnancy can be a time of heightened stress. Factors such as physical discomfort, hormonal changes, concerns about the baby’s health, and anticipation of labor can all contribute to increased stress levels. Continuing to work, especially in a high-stress job, can exacerbate these feelings. Starting maternity leave can provide a buffer, allowing expectant mothers the time to relax, take care of their health, and reduce overall stress levels.

Preparation for Childbirth

The process of childbirth can be daunting, particularly for first-time mothers. Beginning maternity leave a few weeks before the due date allows time for extra preparation. This could include attending childbirth classes, practicing relaxation techniques, or reading about the stages of labor and different birthing options. All these preparations can ease anxiety and build confidence, leading to a more positive childbirth experience.

Time to Adjust to Upcoming Life Changes

The arrival of a new baby brings significant life changes. Taking maternity leave a few weeks before the baby’s arrival can provide valuable time to mentally adjust to these impending changes. It can be used to prepare the home, arrange necessary support, and process emotions related to becoming a parent. This period can also provide a chance to focus on self-care and strengthen relationships with partners, family, or friends who will be part of the support network after the baby’s arrival.

Furthermore, for those who have other children, starting leave earlier can provide an opportunity to spend quality time with them and prepare them for their new sibling.

Role of Healthcare Providers in Advising on the Timing of Maternity Leave

Healthcare providers play a pivotal role in advising expectant mothers on the timing of their maternity leave. Their recommendations are generally based on a comprehensive understanding of the mother’s overall health, the progress of the pregnancy, and any potential risks or complications.

Assessing Health Status

Healthcare providers have a deep understanding of an expectant mother’s overall health and can advise on the best time to begin maternity leave based on this assessment. For instance, a woman with a physically demanding job and a pregnancy-related back pain may be advised to start her leave earlier than a woman who is not experiencing such discomfort.

Monitoring Pregnancy Progress

Healthcare providers closely monitor the progress of the pregnancy. Depending on the pregnancy’s progression and the baby’s health, they may suggest starting maternity leave earlier or later. For example, in a high-risk pregnancy or cases with complications such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, a healthcare provider might recommend an earlier start to maternity leave.

Addressing Potential Risks or Complications

Healthcare providers can also provide advice on managing potential risks or complications, such as preterm labor. Their expertise and understanding of the individual’s health and pregnancy can help in making a decision that minimizes risks to both the mother and the baby.

Facilitating Informed Decisions

Additionally, healthcare providers can help expectant mothers understand the implications of continuing to work during different stages of pregnancy and help them make informed decisions about their maternity leave. They can provide advice about managing stress, ensuring adequate rest, and balancing work and health demands.


In conclusion, deciding when to begin maternity leave is a personal choice that depends on a multitude of factors, and whether or not the 36th week is too early to start maternity leave varies from person to person. This decision should be based on an individual’s health status, the nature of her job, her workplace’s maternity leave policies, financial considerations, as well as her mental and emotional well-being.

Healthcare professionals often recommend the 36th week as a sensible time to start maternity leave because it allows expectant mothers some time to rest, prepare, and attend necessary medical appointments before labor. Physical discomforts that can intensify in late pregnancy, such as backache, heartburn, and sleep disturbances, also make this timing a viable option for many expectant mothers.

However, if maternity leave policies are limited or unpaid, starting leave at the 36th week could potentially reduce the amount of time a mother can spend with her baby after birth. Financial constraints can also be a significant challenge if the maternity leave is unpaid or partially paid.

The mental and emotional well-being of the mother also plays a crucial role. Starting leave at 36 weeks can reduce stress, provide time to prepare for childbirth, and allow for an adjustment period to the impending life changes.

Healthcare providers play a critical role in advising expectant mothers on the timing of their maternity leave based on their health status, the progress of the pregnancy, and any potential risks.

Ultimately, while the 36th week might be a commonly recommended time to begin maternity leave, it’s important for each expectant mother to consider her unique situation and consult with healthcare providers and her employer to make an informed decision. It’s crucial that the chosen timing prioritizes the health and well-being of both the mother and the baby while taking into account the practical realities of their work and personal circumstances.