Taking a New Job While Pregnant

pregnant new jobShould you look for a new job while trying to get pregnant?  If you’re already pregnant, should you take a new job without telling your new employer what’s what? Reader S has a great question about this very subject.

I have a dilemma. A while ago I applied for a great government job that is only 2 years with the possibility of extension. I was prepared to take that risk. Had the interview and didn’t hear anything and assumed that I did not get the job. However, I got a call yesterday and surprise! I got the job. Here is the problem, I am now 12 weeks pregnant. The job starts in August 2011 and ends August 2013. If I take this position, I will be gone from December 2011 to December 2012 (here in Canada we get 1 year mat leave). Do I take it? It is exactly where I want to be in my career.

For my $.02, I really, really think that you must talk to the prospective employer about this development — taking an entire year for a maternity leave during a two-year job seems like a decision made in bad faith. Two other thoughts: If the government always offers this job for two years, perhaps they already have a maternity policy in place for it — that might be the way to start the discussion and test the waters without disclosing your situation. The second thought: I’m not familiar with Canadian law, but are you sure that a mandated law like that would apply to a worker who is less than a full employee? There are a lot of exceptions to US laws (for example if your office is smaller than 15 people) and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find that temporary/contract workers are outside the scope of the law.  (Pictured above: Button Front Bi-stretch Suiting Maternity Jacket, available at a pea in the pod for $59.99 (was $119).)

But this brings us to an interesting question: if you and your partner are trying to get pregnant, should you even be looking for new jobs? I ask that with no disrespect to reader S, and I’m honestly curious to hear the readers’ thoughts on this because I think it comes up a lot here in comments. The tricky thing with pregnancy, of course, is that you have no idea when you’ll actually get pregnant. Most of my friends got pregnant either a) the first month they were off the pill, or b) 6 months+ after that. (I was shocked but very happy when I got pregnant after two months of trying.)  I am far from an expert on maternity leave laws, but I do believe many employers require you to have worked there for at least 3 months before you’re eligible for the maternity leave policy (whether paid or unpaid).  Working Mother had a great article on the legal side of things a few months ago, including which new bills are worth watching.

-------Sponsored Links--------

This is a really tricky subject, and I’m curious to hear what the readers say.  When considering your answers, ask yourself:  Does the woman’s age matter?  If you’ve been trying for a certain amount of time (2 months+? 6 months+?) does it matter?  If you already know you’re pregnant should you curtail the job search, stay put, take maternity leave, and then renew the job search?  Or should you just roll with the punches, get pregnant when you get pregnant, and see how the cards fall with regard to your career and whoever is your current employer when you need to take maternity leave?

I suppose for my own $.02 I would say that it would depend to me on age — as a 34-year-old I would feel a lot more pressure to keep trying for kids regardless of the job situation (mothers who are 35 and over when they give birth are considered “high risk pregnancies,” and I’ve heard that for most women fertility problems start around age 37), but my answer would be different for women younger than that.  On the flip side, from an employer’s standpoint, it would stink to hire someone and then find out that my new employee was pregnant, which would mean that basically her first year with me (assuming she stayed) would be marred by pregnancy fatigue, that she’d have a rich source of distraction (trust me: there are a million things to research once you’re pregnant — it’s been more time consuming than planning my wedding) and then a worker who might be easily distracted/have different priorities if and when she did come back to work.  If I were the employer, knowing that an employee purposely put me in that situation with no regard to my opinion would not leave a very good taste in my mouth, and it would get the whole relationship off to a bad start.

Ladies, please weigh in — if you know you’re trying to get pregnant, should you be looking for a new job?

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Pin on Pinterest


  1. I absolutely think you should be looking if you are trying to get pregnant. The economy is still terrible in many geographic locations and in many industries/careers it is still taking a long time to get hired. In addition, there are no guaranties when it comes to trying to get pregnant. If you wind up pregnant at the time you are actually offered a short term position, I would agree that it probably behooves you to discuss it with your potential employer. But to not look for a job because you *might* get pregnant just seems like a very 1950’s mindset to me.

    • another anon :

      There was a TED talk video a while back with a woman whose name and position escapes me, but one of her points re: career advice for women was “don’t leave before you leave,” i.e., don’t take yourself off projects at work because you are thinking about getting pregnant/trying to get pregnant, because you don’t know how things will play out, and you could seriously put yourself behind in your career. I think this is excellent advice and agree with poster K above.

    • I agree. My three-month maternity leaves are such small blips on a career that could span decades. I would never stop job hunting because I’m trying to get pregnant, and if I happened to start a new job and get pregnant soon after, oh well — I may not get all of the leave benefits I could have, but I certainly don’t think there would be any long-term effects from that.

    • I agree too. In fact, I took a job when I was 4 months pregnant. I fully disclosed it in the interview, and we talked about how it would impact some of my job duties. (For example, I attended several depositions by phone late in my pregnancy instead of traveling to the depos.)

      Of course it didn’t hurt that I really didn’t like the job I was in before I got pregnant, so I really needed to get a job that I enjoyed. I think the Sandberg talk is right on point, and I’m really glad I didn’t have to go back to a job I hated after maternity leave.

      One difference in my situation was that I took an hourly position. Part of that was calculated because I wanted flexibility when I had my children. It is easier for an employer to take an hourly employee who is pregnant than salaried, but I still think that you should continue to look for a job regardless of whether you are having kids or planning to have kids. Maternity leave is such a small part of your career that I don’t think you should plan your career around maternity leave.

      • surfergirl :

        I commend you for telling your future employers. You were honest, they hired you with eyes wide open, and now they trust you. Good on you.

        But see my comment below about a new hire who we interviewed on the internet but not in person. On her first day of work we realized she was super-pregnant (8+ months). She never mentioned this during the interview process, and we had only seen her on the internet video (I’m avoiding the SK**P* word because for some reason the word puts me in moderation.) She worked three weeks before going on maternity leave. We are a small group and we. cannot. afford. this. loss. Morever, she starts off — when she gets back from maternity leave — as an individual who we don’t really trust.

    • Anonymous :

      I agree! Who would ask a man halt his job search because he hoped to have children in the short-term? Why should our standards be different for women? As a society, we should expect full participation in child-rearing and equal engagement in one’s career for both parents, regardless of gender. (Of course, with individual couples, there may be a split on who’s home with kiddo and who works, but as a society, we shouldn’t expect that to break down along gender lines).

      And from an employer’s perspective, is it any better to be the “old employer” with an employee taking maternity leave with one foot out the door, looking for something new once it’s over, than to be the “new employer” with a new hire taking maternity leave but committed to her position when she returns? I can see how it wouldn’t be fair to a new employer if the employee plans to take maternity leave while considering whether to become a stay at home parent and never return to work, but where the employee is relatively certain that the position is a good fit, and it may turn into a long term of employment (10 or 20 years), what’s the real harm?

      • Amelia Bedelia :

        But it IS different. Big law doesn’t give a man 18 weeks of paternity leave, but gives a woman 18 weeks of maternity leave. This is why the question is completely appropriate. You cannot argue that we should have the same consideration when women receive a benefit that men do not receive.

        • Fashion Faux Pas :

          Some firms give equal amounts of leave to both parents. It’s not common, but not unheard of either.

        • If men were expected to care for the child as much as a woman is, then men would be given equal time. You can’t count that against women, in fact it’s another reason why the US is messed up compared to, say, Europe, when it somes to parental leave. Is a woman not allowed to have a career because she has to be the one to actually give birth? I think that it is absolutely in a woman’s right to take a job at any stage of pregnancy or attempted pregnancy unless we decide that we don’t want professionals to breed.

          • Then again, I guess if you like to have a normal type life, you probably shouldn’t be in biglaw to begin with, and if you’re in biglaw, you generally shouldn’t expect to have your personal life respected beyond what is legally required (and often not even then), regardless of your situation…

      • I agree with you there’s not an inherent difference between women and men in the medium-to-long term, but in the short term the pregnancy and delivery itself can be a factor.

        When I was pregnant there was a bit of a baby boom where I worked, and seven women on my floor were pregnant at roughly the same time. Of those women, three had pregnancy complications that affected their ability to be at the office — I was hospitalized four times for hyperemesis and ended up having to take a leave of absence, one woman had a placental abruption and spent a couple weeks on bed rest, and another had to take off a few weeks before her planned leave due to preeclampsia. A family member of mine had to take two months off before delivery because her son was diagnosed with complications in utero that required her to be near a university hospital (in case they had to deliver early and so they could perform emergency surgery on the baby when he was born) and her son had to have several surgeries in his first year; another close friend had to extend her planned leave a month on doctor’s orders after an exceedingly difficult delivery where she lost a lot of blood. (I should note that all five of the women and kids in question are healthy now!)

        The most likely outcome for any given woman is a relatively uncomplicated pregnancy and delivery with a healthy baby, but problems that rise to a level that would affect an employer aren’t rare by any means. So it’s tricky; I totally agree with you that pregnancy shouldn’t prevent someone who’s a good fit from seeking/accepting a new position at all, but I can’t blame an employer for being worried about the short- to medium-term ramifications of pregnancy given that there are so many unknowns.

        • Been there :

          This completely. Not against anyone looking during pregnancy or while TTC, but there needs to be complete disclosure with your new employer before you start your new job. And if you start a new job and say you plan on returning after maternity leave, you need to do so for at least six months. I have seen far too many women not come back after maternity leave, and employers really resent it.
          I have two kids myself, and absolutely believe it is a joke to say that a new mom and a new dad are essentially equivalents, in 90 percent of relationships mom is the primary caregiver, and even where she isn’t, there is a recuperation period after birth that is much more difficult than most woman anticipate.

          • I’m the one who made the unequal-expectations-for-professionals-based-on-gender comment. For the record, I have a child too. For 10 months, I was on maternity leave and worked part-time, then for 2 years, my hubby (who is equally career-driven) was the full-time caregiver while he did part-time consulting. I stand by what I say.

            I am a lawyer in private practice (but not BigLaw) and I believe that we should not stand for a profession that does not give equal consideration to people based on gender, just like we should not stand for a society who lets dads off the hook for their responsibilities to their children. Neither will change without a little agitation.

  2. In my opinion, you should not be looking for a new job if you are pregnant/trying to conceive. This hits home for me because my husband and I had started to discuss the possibility of trying to conceive last year. Then I got laid off and am still looking for a new job. We had to put our plans on hold.

    As a follow-up, I would be interested to hear opinions on how long you should wait after starting a new job before trying to conceive.

    • While I don’t necessarily believe in waiting for anything (you never know what problems you’ll run into), I think a few months is sufficient if it concerns you. Even if you get pregnant right away, that still leaves you with a year at your new job before you would be taking any sort of extended leave (assuming everything goes well).

  3. I’d like to ask a follow-up question – how long should a new employee wait before trying to get pregnant. I’m finishing up a clerkship at the end of August and will start a new job in September. My husband and I would like to start a family (we’re in our early 30s), but we also want to be mindful about the position that puts my future employer in. Any suggestions on appropriate time frames?

    • I’m in the same boat, except I’ve been at my new job for 6 months now. (I had my first baby at the end of a clerkship – totally planned and luckily it worked out). My law school girlfriends and I debated this and decided that you have to have been working about a year at the new job before being visably pregnant. This gives you 9 months to work hard, go to happy hours and make friends, etc. before you actually get preggers and morning sickness sets in. We also thought it was better to get the babies out of the way while you’re still junior and not the one compeltely responsible for any cases yet. It’ll slow you down if you’re on the partner track, but you got 30 years of career left – plenty of time to catch back up.

    • I wouldn’t start TRYING for a year if you’re going to start working for a law firm. Frankly, there is likely little sympathy for pregnancy and you have no idea how sick you’ll be while you’re pregnant. I was very ill starting at week 8 and going through week 16 with both of my pregnancies. The rest of the time, I still was unable to put in the effort that I could have were I not pregnant. If you want to show what you’re made of, give it a year. After you’ve demonstrated your abilities, once they find out your pregnant at least they know you’re a performer and they should hold onto you.

      NOW, all that being said, I started trying for #2 about three months into my new job WITH THE FEDERAL GOV’T, thinking this go round would take a lot more effort. Well, it didn’t. I was pregnant within the month. Thankfully, I had a wonderfully supportive boss and colleagues. And I know that my job was safe in the Fed.

      • Bk foette :

        Or she could sail through pregnancy with no symptoms. I was pregnant during the summer between my 2nd and 3rd year of law school while I was a summer associate and taking 1 class at night so I could have a lighter load when I gave birth in the fall. I had zero complications. I interviewed for this clerkship via videoconference as I was 8 months pregnant (and past traveling acceptability per my OB) and got the job.

        Or it could take her 2+ years to get pregnant and then she may be regretting not starting earlier.

        Each person and each pregnancy is different and I think these decisions must be weighed individually rather than have a set guideline in stone.

      • I was neither pregnant nor trying when initially interviewed for my biglaw job, but was was 3 months pregnant when i had my call back; 5 months preggers when I accepted a position in biglaw; six months preggers when i started; and had only been there 3 months when I took my first maternity leave (which was only 11 weeks because I was not entitled to full leave given my short time there). I’m now a senior associate and have now had my second child. My status in the firm is great, i get wonderful work, and i greatly enjoy the people i work with.

        I also have great child care, and understanding partners — i leave the office by 5:30 most days. it all can be done and you can make it work. it just depends on what you really want to do.

        • Thank you for this comment. I am 31, will be starting in biglaw soon. I was hoping to have a baby my third year in law school but the fertility gods were not with me. Now I am wondering if we keep trying or wait. I am so worried, especially given fertility issues, that waiting will only make it more of a problem in the future. I can only hope that if I do become pregnant that the firm will be understanding about it, given that I have a strong support system and hope to do what it takes to make it all work.

    • Been there :

      I think it depends on what your career goals are. From my experience in big law, junior woman with young children did not got the plum assignments because of the long-standing perception/stereotype that they couldn’t put the hours in that a childless person would. If you plan on being in big law for the long term, I agree, you could overcome this with time. If you are just in it for a few years to get good training and then move on, I think it might not work out as well.

  4. I agree with most everything that Kat said. I think a lot of it comes down to consideration – for yourself and your family, sure, but also for your employer, your co-workers, etc. You really have to look at all aspects of how it impacts everyone in the picture and how well they can deal with it (i.e., your age is important (a 23 year old can afford to wait more than a 35 year old), the position and company in question (if you’re to be one of many doing similar work in a large organization, they are probably much better suited to deal with it then if you have dedicated responsibilities that someone else can’t just pick up), and a bunch of other factors as well). I do think that full disclosure is important; everyone who will be affected (and your potential employer will certainly be affected) should be able to make their decisions with full information.

    Also, Kat, I think that you meant fertility starts to decline at 27, not 37. :)

    • Actually I did mean 37 — but maybe I misspoke in that I mean fertility problems. Just attended a thing from the bar association about getting pregnant and the doc on the panel was the one who cited 37/38 as the time most women have trouble getting pregnant.

      But then I’ve heard that whatever your fertility is in your early 20s, it’s half that by the time you’re 35 — and that by the time you’re 40 it’s halved again. Or something like that.

      • My understanding is that you peak around 27, then it’s all downhill from there- which isn’t to say that you can’t get pregnant after, but it’s going to get progressively harder.

        • You actually start declining from your 20s onward. By the age band of 30-34, your fertility rate is 63%; at 35-39 it’s 52%. But you really fall off the cliff at 40. [See this chart: http://www.babycenter.com/0_chart-the-effect-of-age-on-fertility_6155.bc

          And that’s normal fertility rates, excluding any other causes of infertility. If you have endometriosis, premature ovarian failure, hyperthyroid or a number of other conditions, your fertility may be compromised more and at a younger age.

          Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way. Don’t take your fertility for granted. If you really want children, prioritize getting pregnant over getting a new job. You can always get a new job at any age; you can’t always get pregnant.

          Two cents’ worth of opinion from a 41-year-old veteran of several rounds of IVF …

          • What does the 63% chance mean? Is it a 37% chance you will never be able to get pregnant? Or a 37% chance you will have trouble? Or it will take you longer than a year? If it’s the first, that is very worrisome to me.

          • Naive about this :

            Is it possible to predict for a particular individual whether she will have trouble conceiving, or is it something you find out after trying unsuccessfully? Assuming no prior diagnosis with any of the conditions you mentioned.

          • Still trying :

            This. You can never plan a pregnancy. You may get pregnant after 1 month or you may have to try for years. You can’t just put your life on hold. While I think the OP’s position is unique in that she’d miss half of a 2 year position, I don’t think women “owe it” to their employer to put their personal lives on hold.

          • Plus, as my doctor told me, there is no fail safe test in order to predict how easily you may or may not become pregnant. Its entirely possible that in your late 20s you may find out that it is going to be very difficult for you to get pregnant for one reason or another. And the rates of miscarriage also tend to rise as you get older.
            Try asking around to women in their 30s about their pregnancy experiences and I guarantee you’ll hear a wide variety of stories of difficulty conceiving/assisted conception/miscarriage/etc.

          • lawtalkinggirl :

            The chart is kinda hard to interpret, but I think what it means is this: for every 100 perfectly normal & healthy women aged 30-34, who are not on birth control and who are actively trying, after one year 63 of them will become pregnant. Of the 37 women who did not become pregnant in that year, 8 are actually infertile and will never become pregnant. Same women, aged 35-39, 52 will become pregnant after a year, 48 will not, and of the 48, 15 are infertile. So by the time you are 35, assuming you have healthy lady parts, your chance of becoming pregnant within a year of trying is about 50%. Not great odds, but it also does not mean that you are out of luck completely. I can only hope that I am above average in this department, since I am 32.75 with no baby-daddy even on the horizon.

          • @lawtalkinggirl has the correct interpretation of the chart (assuming *I’m* interpreting it correctly!).

            Being older doesn’t mean it’s _impossible_ to get pregnant, it just means it’s increasingly less _probable._

      • Been there :

        This is very unscientific, but most of my friends trying to conceive in their early thirties, including me, had some “fertility” issues, either trouble getting or staying pregnant. Most got the number of the kids they wanted eventually, but I think it is fair to say that fertility issues start in the arly thirties and then get significantly more serious in the late thirties. That said, I know plenty of women who had their first, second, third, and fourth babies after age 40.

        • Don’t take your fertility for granted. I started trying at 26 and tried for 2 and a half years without ART and then had a failed IUI and a sucessful IVF. However, the reality is even with IVF I was told I only had a 50% chance of getting pregnant each cycle, and that number would have been lower if I was older. My advice would be if you really want to have kids start trying as soon as you can. There will never be a perfect time but you may miss out on your chance completely if you prioritize your career over trying.

      • That must be why I am pregnant for the fourth time since I turned 35. (Babies born at 28, 35, 36, 39, and I will still be 40 when this one is born in November.)

        I am of the school of thought that The Firm is NEVER going to love you back, and especially in Biglaw, 95% of us will never make partner regardless of maternal status. Moreover, the idea that The Firm(*) gets to have a veto (even if only in my own head) over the size of my family is pretty offensive. The Firm would not hesitate to fire my ass the second the partners anticipate even the tiniest slowdown in the rate of INCREASE in their annual PPP. They are not invited into my life decisions.

        (*)I no longer work at The Firm, having quit about a month after one of the senior partners told me, in front of a room full of people, that the firm “has good reasons for not promoting mothers.”

  5. SF Bay Associate :

    Subscribing because I’m also very interested to hear comments.

  6. I think the final paragraph where you single out pregnant workers as being unproductive is unfair. Life gets in the way of work for everyone- if it’s not pregnancy, it’s kids, elderly parents, social engagements, illness, you name it. Distractions can happen for any worker for any reason. Women of childbearing age shouldn’t be specifically discouraged from pursuing their goals simpley because of pregnancy.

    • TheOtherCoast :

      This. Just because you are pregnant does not mean you are a less effective worker.

      • Agreed. I worked extremely hard during my pregnancy; I don’t think you’re doing women any favors with this comment, Kat.

      • Actually, I for one was a less effective worker when I was pregnant. I was sick and tired throughout much of my pregnancy. Which is not uncommon.

        • But you might also have been less effective if you’d been in a car accident, had a sick relative, gotten a divorce, etc. etc. Pregnancy may make some people less effective but so do tons of other things.

  7. No answers, but just a thought — if you are already employed but thinking of leaving, it’s hardly more fair to take advantage of your current employer’s maternity leave, only to leave for that new job once you take it (or within a few months thereafter).

    Man, sometimes it sucks to be a woman.

    • Agreed. I wish it were standard for men to take equivalent paternity leave so mothers wouldn’t have to feel like they are asking for special accomodations or somehow taking advantage of their employers.

      • That is so astute. A perfect sentiment.

      • As an aside: The Norwegian government is trying to make it so that men and women have an equal amount of leave after the baby is born. At either 46 weeks with 100% pay, or 56 weeks with 80% pay, this is will then be divided into three parts, one for the mother, one for the father and one part for the parents to divide between them as they wish.

        Currently, the paternity leave in Norway for fathers is 10 weeks – and around 90% of the fathers take all of it.

        • the reason women get more leave is because they have to physically recover from having a child, and in some instance also from having major surgery. men should not get the same leave as women.

    • to some extent I disagree on this – maternity leave is a benefit given in large part to reward for past service (thus the 1 year requirement a lot of companies have in place). I’m not saying that leaving shortly thereafter wouldn’t “look bad”, but the company understands that risk of offering the benefit when they make it available, and women shouldn’t feel guilty for using it and afterwards making the best career decision for them. It’s a job.

      • Actually in Canada maternity is part of the Employment Insurance (gov’t) some companies will top this up, but only for 3 months.

        • anotheranon :

          Rumour has it that government jobs will top it up for a lot more than 3 months.

      • I don’t really agree with the sentiment that maternity leave is a benefit to reward for past service. If it was, why haven’t I gotten a maternity leave after 17 years of hard work?

        (Because I haven’t had a baby, that’s why).

        Maternity leave is a benefit afforded new mothers (and ideally, fathers – my firm for example has “parental leave” which is for either parent) so they can have time uninterrupted with their new child.

        Not to mention, many companies have no such 1 year policy (and really, in a career that can span decades, 1 year is a blip on the radar and hardly a significant amount of time to deserve, merely on its own virtue, several months off with pay). If someone has worked for a few or several months, are they already deserving of a long paid leave? That doesn’t really resonate.

        I have a real issue with women knowing full well they plan to stay home, and taking the maternity leave anyway. That, to me, only makes people more cynical about women’s ability to balance work and personal life. If you’re not sure, fine – that’s the case for many women. But don’t take advantage.

    • I was in this very position. I had my first child just as my husband was finishing his PhD and entering the job market. We were hoping he would find work locally (and there were good local options), but he was offered and accepted the job of his dreams on the other side of the country while I was finishing up a 4-month fully paid maternity leave from my mid-sized lawfirm employer. I felt a lot of guilt about that!

    • Former 3L :

      I totally agree–or at least that you hear this (“Don’t take advantage of your current employer”) as often as you hear the opposite (“Stay where you are–don’t screw a new employer–you can leave afterwards”). It’s bullshit and you CANNOT WIN.

  8. I don’t want to start a flame war, but it should be noted that it’s inaccurate to state that all pregnancies in women over 35 are considered “high risk.” I think I know what you’re trying to communicate, but generalizations like these don’t help women make informed reproduction decisions.

    • Agree. Not to mention that some 37 year olds are going to have no trouble getting pregnant and no complications in their pregnancies while some 25 year olds are going to have trouble conceiving and complicated pregnancies. There are no guaranties.

    • Bk foette :

      I believe the doctors consider age 35 advanced maternal age which makes it a high risk pregnancy due to the likelihood of genetic issues.

      **Please don’t shoot the messenger, just reporting what my research on fertility and such has informed me of.

      • You’re absolutely right. Advanced maternal age is any pregancy where the woman is over 35 — it’s a medical definition, not a judgment. It’s not “high risk” in the same way a previa or HELLP would be, but it’s a cut-off doctors use.

        • Bk foette :

          In that same line of thinking, teenage pregnancies are also considered high risk due to higher risk of complications.

    • I do not believe it’s inaccurate. Medically, if you are going to be 35 when you deliver, you are subjected to additional tests, sonograms, etc. The insurance companies and medical profession follow this “generalization.”

      • yup, 35 is generally considered “high risk” by everyone who will treat your pregnancy. You might be perfectly healthy, but you’re still classified that way.

      • My point is that “high risk” is a vague label that provides little information. High risk of what? It is accurate to say that the incidence of Down’s Syndrome (for example) increases with maternal age, but that’s not the same as a “high risk” of having a baby with this genetic makeup. I know this may seem like a small semantics issue, but I feel that it’s important to discuss risk in a way that doesn’t lead to implications like, “Women who choose to conceive over the age of 35 are engaging in risky behavior.”

        • Regarding the statement “Women who choose to conceive over the age of 35 are engaging in risky behavior.”

          Some people will definitely feel that way. It all depends on how risk averse you are. I would say that riding a motorcycle is risky behavior, but my brother would say that was ridiculous. People just aren’t going to agree on this issue.

        • I know two couples who have babies with Down’s Syndrome. In both cases, mom was over 37 when she got pregnant. It is a fact of life. If you think fertility charts are scary, go look at the charts that show the chance of a birth defect happening once women get to 36 or 37.

          For all the celebrities who have had perfect babies at 41 (and frankly, a lot of those women had help they are not admitting to), there are a lot of other not-so-perfect stories. Which is fine. My kid had special needs and I wouldn’t trade him for anything. But there is a much greater chance of having a low-risk pregnancy with no adverse outcome if you are younger. The data backs me up on that statement; it’s not a value judgment.

    • Yep that’s what the docs say. If you’re due when you’re 35 = high risk automatically. (Not that you’ll have problems, but it puts you into the category for advanced maternal age.) I say this knowing if I get pregnant in the next few months as I’d like to, I’ll be in that group. I wasn’t for my last 3 kids.

      • I think it’s due when you’re 36. I was 35 and was not considered advanced maternal age.

    • I think you are taking “high risk” as some sort of value judgment or proscription when actually it’s just a statistical measure (or, gasp! generalization).

    • But it is “high risk.” “High risk” doesn’t mean “absolute risk.” But it’s been proven that women over the age of 35 have a greater incidence of complications with their pregnancies. It’s harder for them to get pregnant, they’re more likely to miscarry, they’re more likely to have genetic anomolies, and they’re more likely to have operative deliveries. This does not mean that ALL women over 35 will have problems; it means that more woman over 35 do have these problems when compared to women under 35. Anecdotes don’t mean anything to evidence-based medicine — my mother was nearly 40 when she had me and everything was fine. But, statisitally speaking, it was less likely that everything would be fine.

    • While it may be true, I think some people forget how painful and frightening statements like this are to women who aren’t in a place in their lives where children are possible. I’m 32 and single–I don’t like to be reminded constantly that I better get on it if I want to have healthy children, whether it’s true or not. It’s not always a matter of planning–a lot of it is luck in terms of who you meet and how things unfold.

      Defensively yours,

      • No one is trying to make you panic or make you feel bad about your situation in life. But facts are facts. It’s that old saying – you are entitled to your own opinion; you are not entitled to your own facts. You know?

    • While it may be true, I think some people forget how painful and frightening statements like this are to women who aren’t in a place in their lives where children are possible. I’m 32 and single–I don’t like to be reminded constantly that I better get on it if I want to have healthy children, whether it’s true or not. It’s not always a matter of planning–a lot of it is luck in terms of who you meet and how things unfold.
      Defensively yours,

      • A Regular Lurker :

        Thank you thank you thank you! I’m 27, pretty hopelessly single, and the comments above about how my eggs are all about to turn to dust because I did not have the good sense to get married in college (not that anyone was asking) made me want to cry. And I’d been so relieved to see 37 in the post as the age where your fertility falls off the cliff! Glad I’m not the only one who takes this personally.

      • I’m there with you Batgirl. I’m 32, single, and no prospects on the horizon. I think the coupled folks really take it for granted and it’s hard sometimes to sympathize when I feel so many life stages behind already.

        Of course, I recognize it’s all a variation of feeling sorry for oneself for having no shoes until meeting a person who has no feet.

        • Batgirl, et al – While I realize that statistics are scary, that doesn’t make them less true. I am a female attorney over 40 and surrounded by my peers who waited too long and either spent a fortune and went through hell to have their child or spent a fortune, went through hell and still were unable to conceive/carry to term. Many of them wish desperately that someone had scared them at 27 or 32 (or even 35). So please understand that is where we are coming from.

          Finally, for anyone out there without a parenting partner on the horizon, there’s always donor insemination. Its not for everyone but it is an alternative for women who want badly to have children but have not found the right guy.

          • What bothers me is the notion that these women waited. I’m sure some of them did–some of them were desperate to have kids and weren’t in the right situation to do so. I’m not just biding my time–I’d love to be in the enviable situation of being married and having children and not worrying about this stuff. But I’m not. I resent the insinuation that it’s about waiting. Sometimes it’s about bad luck.

          • The women (lawyers) I know who waited “too long” and then had to deal with ART, failed adoptions, and that sort of heartbreak were, every single one of them, women who were not waiting for the right guy to come along. They were all waiting to make partner.

            Only one of these women actually made it — her firm made her partner after she went through 5 years of ART and a failed adoption, right before she finally succeeded in adopting a beautiful little boy. They demanded she return to work 2 weeks after bringing her child home. My jaw is still on the ground because after going through all of that, I would have told those other “partners” ALL about themselves.

          • Christine :

            For most women who have children later, it was not because they waited or put career first, but just that they got married later. Say you meet the right guy at 32, and marry at 33, start trying a half years after your wedding and get pregnant after nine months. Then you still give birth at 35. Someone could have scared you at 27 or 30, but what are you going to do when you are single? Most women want a family with a man they love, not a baby from the sperm bank or a random affair.

            By the way, I’m Dutch, we get 26 weeks of parenting leave since this year. For the mother, there is an insurance for 16 weeks of that to be paid. A woman would probably take 4 months of fulltime leave for recovery/spending time with baby/nursing and then work half for 4 months and a man would generally take it more spread. You can take it over the course of 8 years. I think it is good this way, many young fathers want to spend one day a week at home with their children. I work at a consultancy firm and many young men choose either assignments close to home when they are newlyweds or young fathers or do 36 hours in 4 days. We also get 4 weeks of holiday a year, at least.

            Sure, sometimes there will be deadlines, sometimes you just need more time, and if you really are superkeen on getting promoted, it helps if you work more, but Europeans are generally not as big on working a ton of hours as Americans are. I do think we are often a bit more productive per hour in many professions. This is not because we work harder but mostly because we have more automation and work smarter. I think we are more often judged on output and you are more often judged on input.

        • My earlier attempt at this is stuck in moderation, so I apologize if it shows up twice:

          Batgirl, et al – While I realize that statistics are scary, that doesn’t make them less true. I am a female attorney over 40 and surrounded by my peers who waited too long and either spent a fortune and went through h**l to have their child or spent a fortune, went through it and still were unable to conceive/carry to term. Many of them wish desperately that someone had scared them at 27 or 32 (or even 35). So please understand that is where we are coming from.Finally, for anyone out there without a parenting partner on the horizon, there’s always donor insemination. Its not for everyone but it is an alternative for women who want badly to have children but have not found the right guy.


  9. I think that the length of the maternity leave would have a much bigger impact on my decision than my age. That is, I wouldn’t overthink the job situation if I only intended to take a 6-12 week maternity leave. If I planned to be out for longer, I would definitely consider more seriously how it would impact my employer or future employer.

    • Bk foette :

      I also agree — since I am the primary earner in the family, my leave of absence would not be longer than a few months. I figure people get medical conditions all the time that would render them out of commission for 8-12 weeks (surgery, complications from surgery, mental health issues, addictions) that there is a possibility others will be out of the office for extended period of times as that is a fact of life.

  10. Also subscribing for comments

  11. I really don’t see a problem with looking/interviewing while trying to conceive — it could take months or years for you to get a job OR have your baby. Even if you’re already pregnant, I don’t think it’s ideal to be job searching, but there are certainly circumstances that warrant a new job.

    Before accepting a position, I do believe in full disclosure, regardless of what rights you may have. In an ideal world, the employer would be more than happy to work with you in that situation.

  12. Another issue that might be worth considering if you’re in a situation like this is whether or not its really important to you to take off several months after the child is born. (as a caveat, I have no idea what Canada’s laws are on this.)

    Keep in mind that most women in the U.S. don’t take several months off after pregnancy. I waited tables in college with women who took a week (or even less) off after delivery before going back to a physically demanding job. (I know that’s not ideal, but they were in circumstances where it was important to them to get back to work.) Later, I worked in disability, and most women got 6 weeks leave- note that these were women who had disability insurance through their workplace, so they were better off then a lot of people. They (usually) had additional FMLA time available of course, and some took more time unpaid or with vacation time, but a lot went back to work when the money stopped. I’d never heard of multi-month maternity leaves until I entered the legal field.

    Obviously, you’ve got to decide what’s important to you, but it might be worth considering promising the potential employer a shortened leave time. (Of course, if you do make that promise, you’re obligated to keep it, even if you don’t want to, or the employer certainly won’t believe the next women to try to make it.)

    • This is a very good point. Most women I know take 6 to 8 weeks. Often, that’s at reduced/no pay, so they can’t afford to take more. While a slight inconvenience to your employer, that amount of time is not enough to alter your family plans.

      Plus, being a competent, dedicated employee will likely mitigate your missed time.

      • Amelia Bedelia :

        my sister is a loan officer at a bank. she took four weeks: three vacation and one week sick. In her field this is the norm.

  13. ditto to subscribing!

    Although I remember a TED talk with one of Google’s head honchos that told women not to off-ramp their careers in anticipation of life changes like family…off-ramp when it happens not before! For getting pregnant, I personally would generally not let a job search interfere with that and let the chips fall as they may when I got a job offer. Like others have said, it can take MONTHS to get pregnant; don’t downshift your career before it happens.

    BUT, for this poster who is considering taking a temporary position, I would recommend letting the employer know and re-think the decision to take the job. It is just bad form (in my opinion) to accept a temp job and not plan on being there for the duration of your term (let alone gone for 1/2 of it!), and can only make the employer resentful.

    • It was Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook.

      Here is a link to her talk (video) and written summary.

    • Completely agree with anon.

      • While I would not plan my job around my pregnancy, I would certainly consider a corporate culture in my decision to stay at or take a new job. My current firm is very flexible with working from home/flex time hours/sick leave/etc. and I’ve made a choice to stay put over the long haul in order to take advantage of these benefits as I don’t plan to be a SAHM and feel this company will give me the flexibility to (hopefully) have a good work/life balance.
        And sadly, yes, this is a rare and wonderful company to find these days!

  14. I think Reader S’s situation is a pretty difficult one – I agree with Kat that it’s not appropriate to take a 2-year position if you know at the outset that you will miss an entire year of the two years. Do you have to take the full year of maternity leave? If you really want the job, perhaps taking a shorter 3-4 month maternity leave would be more appropriate, given the already short term of the job. Of course I say that from the U.S. where 3-4 months is all that anyone really expects. (And from the city that just brought home the Stanley Cup – woop!)

    • Specific to Reader S, I would also suggest that she inquire into whether it is possible to delay the start of her position until after she takes her M.L.

      A lot of temporary gov’t positions in the U.S. are things like clerkships, etc. If the position is similar, perhaps S can be upfront with her employer and suggest the option — if M.L. during the position is unacceptable — that she start two years from now, after she has had the baby and after someone else has completed the 2 year position. Many clerkships in the US hire one to three years out anyway. Perhaps some similar arrangement is possible.

  15. Bk foette :

    I am looking for employment and trying to conceive. We have been trying since October 2009 and still no success (*we have a 2.5 year old conceived in 3-4 cycles). I am nearing the end of my 2 year clerkship and basically we have been trying since about 2 months after I started in hopes I would be pregnant and dealing with newborn while having no billables at the court. Alas, that did not turn out.
    We have stopped advanced reproductive techniques (I was on clomid and then injectibles and did a round of IUI), but have plans to do IVF in Jan 2012, will likely do a few more rounds of clomid IUI in Sept/Oct/Nov.
    I am interviewing as my clerkship ends in August. I figure even if I catch that golden egg now, I would still be somewhere for 6 months before giving birth – if we do the IVF route in Jan, it would be a year. We have savings to pay for the IVF in cash and if we get lucky ahead of time, we would use that savings to fund living expenses while on maternity leave as I would likely not qualify for any employer paid maternity leave.
    I advocate not waiting – you never know how long it will take, you never know what lemons life will hand to you and you should not put your life on hold as there will always be some other reason to wait. In my situation, my job is ending, I have to get a job and thus I am looking even though we continue trying to conceive. I am the primary breadwinner in our family as my husband works part-time from home and does the primary house and child caretaking responsibilities.

  16. I think it’s hard to win here. On the one hand, you don’t want to show up someplace new trying to make a good impression and then immediately take leave. On the other, you don’t want to take advantage of a current employer’s generous maternity leave policy only to jump ship for a new job shortly after. For some people there will be a perfect time, but for many others there won’t, and I don’t think it really behooves us as women to create “rules” surrounding this.

    • And no matter what you decide to do, someone is going to get screwed, whether it’s your old employer, new employer, you, or your family. These conservations exhaust me because I feel like there’s no way to win.

  17. A few thoughts
    1. Depends on the job — woudl you be the ONLY one doing the job or would there be others?

    2. Can you significat other take some of the paternal leave

    3. How about a part time solution (a coworker is currently doing this, he’s in the office 2 days a week and reachable the other days via cell phone).

    I’d say “yes bring it up” but “wait till the job offer is made”.

    My thoughts only

  18. No substantial thoughts on the topic, but Canada gets 1 year maternity leave?! Wow! How much vacation time do you get? I really think America is just terrible when it comes to maternity leave/vacation time.

    • 1 year is only for Federal government, 50 weeks, actually. I think for most other jobs it is 6 months, and you can receive (un)employment insurance during the 6 months, which is about half your regular pay. Certain workplaces will top up your salary to the full or nearly full amount.

      • Canadian here. Our government-run employment insurance pays for 50 weeks of maternity / parental leave at about 60% of salary (maximum coverage is around $45,000 per year). Some (rare) employers do top up to 60% of your actual salary, or to 100% of actual salary. The first 12 weeks must be taken by the mother. The remainder be taken by either parent. In many cases, the parent that makes the least will take more parental leave.

        Your job is protected for the first six months of leave – after that, the employer can fill your position, but most will hold it for the year. I’ve actually never heard of someone being pressured to come back before a year. Being ‘around that age’ I know three engineers and two accountants (one is a CFO) who have recently taken one year mat leaves with no penalty.

        If S’s partner makes significantly more than she does, that could factor into her choice to take a whole year. It very difficult and expensive to find daycare spaces in many Canada cities – especially for infants. I don’t think there are many places that accept children who are not at least 6 months.

        • Anonymous :

          Another Canadian here — there used to be something about repaying benefits if the mother didn’t go back to work for a certain amount of time, not sure.

          But, yes, mat leave is a legal right up here. FYI: Our supreme court just denied double time off benefits to parents of twins.

    • Still trying :

      Wow. At my federal job, your maternity leave is whatever leave you have accrued plus whatever sick leave your doctor deems necessary.

      • This. I worked at a public law school when I had my last baby. For reasons not important here I did not qualify for FMLA, so I took 3 weeks of accrued sick time, and worked up to the time the baby was born. (And when I say “up to,” I mean it — I had work with me and was doing it in the labor & delivery room. Thank God for that epidural.)

    • …but a lot of places do top up to 1 year. Most people I know have taken the full year, whether they work in government or not. Of course, if you are on the partnership track at a law firm, taking a full year may not be the best thing to do – a lot of people I know in that boat have only taken 5 or 6 months even though their firm would allow them to take a full year.

      A lot of places in Europe also get that amount of time, and I’ve known women in large London firms who have taken 2 back-to-back 1-year maternity leaves. Seriously, I don’t know how you guys in the US manage with your paltry 6-8 weeks. Surely you should get more than that…it seems inhumane not to give you more.

      • I took off 8 weeks with my child, and it was so hard to leave my baby to go back to work. At the time, I just couldn’t afford to take any unpaid leave, and that was the extent of our paid leave. Sucked big time. 6 months would have been heavenly.

  19. My own experience first: I worked at a very intense, professional position in DC area. I began looking for a job knowing that we were trying to conceive. I found out I was pregnant in the midst of the job hunt as I was expecting to receive an offer from my new employer. I informed the prospective employer that I was pregnant (even though I was only a month or so along) because I did not want the employer to have that news brought to them after I had only been there a couple of months (when you would normally tell your employer). I was 32 at the time. My new employer took the news in stride and turned out to be exceedingly family friendly (not unrelated to taking the news well). Granted, I was not taking a year off when I went on maternity leave.

    My two cents: I used to believe these things (pregnancies, job sequence/timeline) could be planned out perfectly. When I hit my 30s, I realized that your body does not subscribe to a plan and decided to roll with it. I realized that if I had waited until the right time at a job to have children, there was a decent chance I could end up regretting it if I could not get pregnant later.

    Having said that (and sorry for a long post), I did reconsider my next career move when I was trying to conceive our second child. I was considering several high-pressure, 80 hour/week positions and I knew that I would need to delay our trying to conceive if I took one of those jobs. That was partly why I decided to turn those positions down. In answer to one question, I probably would have waited 6 months to a year in a new position before trying to conceive.

    So for me, it depended on the employer in question, my stage in life, and even whether it was kid #1 or #2. Final thought: A guy where I worked ended up tearing up his knee really bad and not being able to come to work for weeks on end. Would that have sucked for a new employer? Sure. At least with pregnancy, you can make some plans with regard to timing and workload. As women, I don’t think we should penalize ourselves for an activity that has to occur for a society to continue. The way your prospective (or new) employer handles pregnancies is a decent predictor of how it will handle families.

    • “The way your prospective (or new) employer handles pregnancies is a decent predictor of how it will handle families.”

      Great point! If anyone is having any doubts about disclosing prior to accepting an offer – I think if the fact that it’s the right thing to do isn’t motivating enough, this should give you all the motivation you need.

  20. What timing. I have a related question for y’all that I have really been wanting to ask someone but haven’t known who or how to broach it. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    I am freshly, just barely pregnant. At a big firm. In my ideal world, I would apply for my dream job somewhere in the middle-end of my maternity leave. The application process takes a while (gvt) so would probably come back to the firm and then hopefully interview, etc. To apply for the job, I need a number of letters of recommendations from partners I work with at the firm. I am hesitant to ask for them right before I go out on maternity leave (or even once they know I am preggo) and similarly hesitant to ask right when I come back. Do you think I could ask now? And say I want to get my application ready for when the right time comes?

    • No, I don’t. Don’t give them any legitimate reason to let you go before you’re ready to leave.

    • Usually with those gov jobs the letter of rec has to be dated within a certain time period of your application so to have the letters almost a year early would not work.

    • Anon for this :

      It’s been my experience at most big firms that you basically have to pretend you want to be there forever… you know that’s not true, they know that’s not true, but the minute you give an indication that you’re actually contemplating leaving, or even just contemplating whether to contemplate leaving, they become less invested in you.

      Given that you want to leave on the sooner side (i.e., as soon as the gov’t thing comes through)… that might not matter to you. But my experience with gov’t hiring is that it takes even longer than you could possibly imagine.

      However, also given my experience with gov’t apps and hiring, I’m not familiar with them requiring letters of recommendation.

      • Anon for this :

        Just realized you might be talking about clerkships, which do require the letters of rec. My opinion is that a clerkship is a whole different ballgame… it is perfectly acceptable to leave a firm to clerk (particularly if you are in litigation and didn’t clerk straight out of law school), and the firm doesn’t even need to know that you don’t intend to ever come back (if you don’t).

        If that is the case, and you want to apply for clerkships, I don’t see anything wrong with approaching people now and say you’re contemplating this, and ask if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation.

      • I would add …. if you are talking clerkship, that’s a little different b/c people do leave to clerk and come back to their old firms. If you spin it that way, it may go over better.

        If you’re not talking clerkship — then what are the letters for? Haven’t heard of it in any other context.