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Expectant mothers, and sometimes fathers, are entitled to some length of maternity leave in most of the developed world. The length of your maternity leave depends on where you live, and on your job. It is often also possible to seek unpaid maternity leave in addition to the paid leave. This keeps your job safe, and gives you more time to devote to caring for your baby full-time.

If you are offered flexibility as to when to go on maternity leave, you may well feel conflicted. Should you commence maternity leave a few weeks before your estimated due date, or take leave only once you go into labor?

There are advantages to starting your leave before you actually give birth. The ninth month of pregnancy is often exhausting for women, and having time at home before the baby comes gives you the chance to prepare your home for the new baby and finish your baby shopping. At the same time, work may be very stressful for women who can go into labor at any time. And the advantages of waiting until you start contractions are also clear.

You will have more time to spend with your baby before you have to return to work. Some women are fine with working right until they go into labor (I was one of them!). Whatever you decide, it is good to start planning earlier on in your pregnancy. You should also consider whether you want to go back to work once your maternity leave is up, or whether you'd prefer to take up any offers of additional unpaid leave.

If you don't want to go back to work at all, that would require a lot of financial planning too. Making a post-baby budget and living on it for a while during your pregnancy to test whether it is realistic is a great approach for couples who are not sure how to organize their family life once the baby is born. See reasons to work outside the home after you have a baby and benefits of being a stay at home parent for more on these topics.

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