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How does pregnancy and maternity leave affect my career?

Understanding what your values are regarding pregnancy and work, and thinking about your career can help you to plan your maternity leave and your return to work.

Your ambitions and your feelings towards work and family might not change fundamentally with parenthood, however having a child does reveal core values more clearly. Taking time to understand these and recognising where you are in your career and where you want to be will help you effectively plan maternity leave and your return to work.

This article covers:
Understanding your values related to pregnancy and work 
Identifying your skills, strengths and achievements
How does pregnancy fit with my career?

Understanding your values related to pregnancy and work

We all work for different reasons. For most of us there is a mix of financial, social, and intellectual satisfaction in work and possibly the sense of making a valued contribution.

Taking time to understand your values and what working gives you or enables you to do will help identify how you want to work when you become a parent. Getting the balance right between work life and family life is different for each of us.

Identifying your skills, strengths and achievements

Look back over your career to identify your key achievements and the skills and strengths you used to accomplish them. This will enable you to:

  • Make informed career decisions.
  • Boost your confidence and demonstrate your value during pregnancy.

Prepare for when you tell your boss and co-workers that you’re pregnant.

How does pregnancy fit with my career?

Depending on your life and career goals, taking six, nine or 12 months maternity leave from work may or may not affect your career. For example, if you are undertaking professional qualifications that take two years to complete, taking a year out will delay it. If you choose to return on a reduced number of hours then this can mean it takes longer to achieve specific professional qualifications, e.g. a pilot will need a specific number of flying hours. In addition, many people have more than one career in their lifetime.

By understanding your values and goals, you can make informed choices about what it is you want out of your career and family life. Once you have an idea of what you want to be doing in the next five to 10 years it is time to plan how you can achieve this. The best way to start is to:

  • work out what and who can help and hinder you in achieving your goals, and
  • what you need to do to tip the balance in your favour.

For example, consider who could help you maintain a good profile through maternity leave or if you want to work fewer hours, what backup arrangements do you need at home to accommodate job demands, such as early start times or working away from home.

Shared parental leave is available in the first year to parents who qualify. Shared parental leave may allow you and your partner to share leave (taking it separately or together) or take leave in more flexible blocks in the first year that enable you to maintain more contact with work. Consider how you and your partner want to share leave in the first year and beyond. 

You have the right to request flexible working hours, and your employer has a duty to consider your request seriously. Read more in our article here.

Knowing what you want in life and combining this with your values and strengths will help you manage your transition through pregnancy, maternity leave and return to work.

Page last updated: May 2016

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in many areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.