The pregnancy diaries: When to start maternity leave? [UK]

By Catherine Hudson, editor of FashTravels

FashBaby: A whole new kind of adventure hosted at FashTravels. Here, you’ll find a weekly diary of my pregnancy journey.

My day job: style editor at Gurgle magazine 

I’ve worked, non-stop, since I left university. At the age of 34, I now have to take on a whole new kind of ‘job’ – being ‘mum’, and being on maternity leave. Yikes. The idea of having (up to) a year away from my magazine job has plus points… 1. Not commuting 2. Well, I can’t really think of anything else. Except being out of the office (any office) has to have a few perks, right?
I really enjoy my work, and the idea of being out of that loop makes me feel a bit… nervous. On the other hand, I’m now 31 weeks pregnant, and I feel uncomfortable. Breathing, walking and staying awake are all harder. So, finishing up and then the joy of welcoming our daughter are no doubt making the mental transition a bit easier. But, when to stop? I have a commute of 1.5 hours each way by foot and by tube train, four days a week, then one day working freelance from home. I decided to ask my Facebook friends, what they thought…. [I have removed names, as my profile is private].
Just to note: I live and work in the UK where the bare legal minimum maternity leave, if you are employed and have been in the job for a certain amount of time, is six weeks paid at 90% of your earnings. Lots of places offer better packages than this. However, my job only offers the bare minimum. I can take up to 52 weeks off, but after the six weeks paid at 90%, it goes down to statatuatory pay at £140 per week for the following 33 weeks. The remaining 13 weeks of that year are unpaid, should you then take the full year. This is why lots of people try to work close up to their due date. 
  • I stopped 3 weeks before, but I think all depends how your feeling and how you get to work, I had to go oxford street and was tired but I know people that stopped 2 weeks before some 5 weeks before
  • If you have a long commute then I would stop or ask to work from home for a few weeks then start maternity two weeks before due date
  • 6 weeks with my first, on midwife’s advice, and that was too long! 2 weeks with my second, and that didn’t seem long enough. So maybe 3 or 4 weeks is a happy medium?! You never can tell if baby is going to be early or late anyway!
  • 4 weeks before
  • Was meant to be 2 weeks but I moved it to 4 weeks because I was so tired and immobile!
  • 2 weeks before with each. Only the second was early so only got a week! Depends on how you’re feeling. I’d rather have the time off with them than spent twiddling my thumbs waiting… This time round I’m going for just under 3 weeks and using annual leave first so mat leave doesn’t officially start till a few days before D day…
  • 2 weeks but I work locally and could drive to work. However I wish I’d had 3 the last week was tough and that’s working local! Your right the commute will be horrible and if it’s anything like my sister in law, no one will ever offer you a seat.
  • I think go for as late as poss so you get longer with your baby….if you feel well enough…I aimed for two weeks before but Joseph was 10 days early …if you take two weeks before and baby is two weeks late thats a whole month earlier you would need to go back with baby only being 11 months…if you take a year? Hard to predict though!
  • You can use leave to add to the end of you mat leave from next years allowance too so that can extend it anyway…..also you may be raring to get back to work by then!
  • No1. Was supposed to be three weeks but pulled it forward as too knackered. No2 – 8 weeks but she was 2 weeks late! No. 3 turned out to be 6 weeks too (13 days late). Without wanting to be too dramatic it’s your last chance for a rest for a looong time, make the most of it!
  • I finished at 35 weeks as sitting at a desk for long hours was too much and it wasn’t an option to work remotely. I know everyone says work late and then you have more time with the baby but I think you should enjoy some time to yourself while you can.
  • I always knew he would be late so had a due date two weeks later than official in my head. Never got frustrated, just planned loads of nice things and totally rearranged the house!
  • 2 weeks with my first
  • I did two weeks but I actually took holiday for the 4 weeks before that so that I was only working 3 or 4 days a week. Was a life-saver (especially as my waters broke on my first day of mat leave). I would recommend to anyone I do mat meetings with going forward. People on average leave 2-4 weeks before due date normally using some holiday.
  • A month before my first (2 wks annual leave, 2 wks maternity) – summer baby, couldn’t cope with hot trains! A week before my second, but was working locally and driving, also part time. On reflection should have stopped two weeks before.
  • I stopped 4 weeks before with Max but 6 weeks before with Stella, but she was born in the summer and it was so hot. The commute just gets harder and harder
  • I stopped 2 and a bit weeks before with my first. It worked because I changed working hours to get in and out of London’s Zone 1 before everyone else. With my second I worked up to my due date, but from home obviously
  • Im planning on 3 weeks before but hoping to work last week at home so 4 weeks not in office. Ive heard its the travel that gets tough!
  • I worked up until 36 weeks, and that was enough for me, also gives you more time to get organised and rest!
  • I stopped a week before my due date with my first…and she was on time (I love a deadline). That felt about right for me although I was hoping she’d be a week late so I would have had two weeks pre-baby. Any longer and I would have been bored out of my brain!
  • 3 weeks – you get so tired towards the end and also very uncomfortable sitting down for long periods of time also used to make my back ache etc so definitely give yourself enough time to rest, chill and nest, ha.
  • If you can be flexible, do what feels right at the time. If you have a fixed plan you set yourself up to feel disappointed and fed up if you need to finish early. You just don’t know how you’ll feel – hopefully you’ll sail through and feel great!
  • I had my first on my official last day/handover a whole 4 weeks early. Wasn’t the best timing!
  • I was at my desk until two weeks before my first was born – but my husband was driving us into central London most mornings, which made all the difference. Not sure I could have coped with trains/tubes/bus every day!
  • I gave up 4 weeks before in the end, I was commuting to London and I became very tired near the end, good job I did because if I gave up work 2 weeks before than I originally planned it would’ve meant I only had 3 days break before she came as she ended up coming 10 days early!
  • I stopped at 38 weeks but then my baby didn’t come til 42 weeks. I could have carried on but the commute home was the thing that got to me the most. My ankles were so swollen by the evening, I struggled getting my shoes on!! However I always got a seat on the train and South West trains give you a free upgrade to 1st class so that was lovely!
  • Give yourself a bit of time, at least 2 weeks, cos things are going to be mad once the baby comes! One of my friends advised me to enjoy the time to take things easy, enjoy some you time and also a few dates with your partner, things you may not be able to do for a while after.
  • 3 weeks – there comes a point where you don’t want to risk your waters breaking on the tube!
  • 2 weeks before with first. 9 weeks before with second but she was 6 weeks prem.
  • Do not be a martyr…finish as early as you need to…listen to your body. You are allowed to finish 11weeks before due date! With my first, I had loads I wanted to do before she arrived and I needed some time to myself to get my head straight first, im so glad I did. I really enjoyed my time before she arrived and I really needed it. There is nothing to prove by working until you pop! Especially with a commute.
  • I worked right up until my due date. It’s a once in a lifetime thing for each child, women have rights these days, so go for what suits you. I always went for the more time after the baby was born option.
  • With our first three I stopped at 38 weeks but with my first I didnt get any work days off as he decided to arrive at 38 weeks. Wish I’d left a little earlier in hind sight. With my last baby I left at 36 weeks – gave me a week to get properly ready!

THANK YOU for all the advice everyone! Weighing it upy plan is to work in the office up until 35 weeks, then work three weeks from home, and two weeks on maternity leave pre-baby due date. But, we’ll see!



  1. The pregnancy diaries: ‘I’m pregnant. Now what?’ – Introduction: Weeks 0-18
    Hello, my name is Catherine and I‘m pregnant!
  2. The pregnancy diaries: ‘I’m pregnant. Now what?’ – Week 19
    Hearing the heartbeat and telling people
  3. The pregnancy diaries: ‘I’m pregnant. Now what?’ – Week 20
    Sleeping, 20-week scan and nesting
  4. The pregnancy diaries: ‘I’m pregnant. Now what?’ – Week 21
    Confidence, quiet time and trial runs
  5. The pregnancy diaries: ‘I’m pregnant. Now what?’ – Week 22
    The one where we went on a babymoon to Sri Lanka
  6. The pregnancy diaries: ‘I’m pregnant. Now what?’ – Week 23
    Bathtime, being lazy and shaving rules
  7. The pregnancy diaries: ‘I’m pregnant. Now what?’ – Week 24
    We’re a team, baby – you, me and…
  8. The pregnancy diaries: ‘I’m pregnant. Now what?’ – Week 25
    Seeing your baby in 4D – what is it and is it a good idea?
  9. The pregnancy diaries: ‘I’m pregnant. Now what?’ – Week 26
    Christmas, acid reflux and wondering who I am
  10. The pregnancy diaries: ‘I’m pregnant. Now what?’ – Week 27
    Being stuck in limbo and working 9am – 5pm/6pm/7pm…
  11. The pregnancy diaries: ‘I’m pregnant. Now what?’ – Week 28
    Injections and indifference
  12. The pregnancy diaries: ‘I’m pregnant. Now what?’ Week 29
    Oh right. I’m pregnant…




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