Holly Willoughby and working up to your due date – should you? Would you?

Best time to go on maternity leaveI was very nearly on the radio this week, talking about Holly Willoughby’s announcement that she plans to work right up to her due date with her third pregnancy.

Then some important breaking news happened, so my interview didn’t (and it remains that the first and last time I was on the radio was when I was very young – the dizzy heights of Radio Shropshire no less, talking about the Fergie and Prince Andrew Royal Wedding, way way back in the swirly mists of time).

But I think Holly W’s announcement is a really interesting topic, and clearly one that is of interest as there has been so much coverage. So…working right up to your due date – should you? And if not, when’s the best time to go off work and on to maternity leave?

Like most things pregnancy, it’s an entirely personal choice, isn’t it? It’s likely to depend on a complex combination of factors including how you feel physically and emotionally, the type of pregnancy you’re having, the job you do, and often, all things financial.

What did everyone else do, and was it different with second – and third, and fourth – babies? First time round, I put my out of office on for maternity leave in mid-December, at about 34 weeks, as Christmas seemed like a natural break for my expected-in-January baby. I found work and the daily commute stressful and exhausting at that point, so was more than ready. I had a great six or so weeks buying all the last minute baby bits, seeing my NCT friends, and lounging around on the sofa watching terrible TV thinking “is THIS IT?” at every twinge.

This time round, things are really different. I’m self-employed, which is brilliant, but means I don’t have the nice comfortable maternity pay package I did last time. Part of what I do is this blog and blogging, which won’t take a hiatus just because I am. And as the post-baby time is more important, I’m likely to be working right up until the last minute. Or, at least, a couple of weeks before. 

However, I’m incredibly lucky to feel pretty good at the moment, having spent the last few days raging a one woman war on the unspeakably awful woodchip wallpaper that haunts our hallways *flexes muscles*. Despite still having lots of risk factors, I’m having a much less difficult pregnancy than last time; touch wood it stays that way. I really enjoy work, and find that looking after a toddler is more exhausting and my work days – admittedly, sat in front on a laptop, often on a sofa, in my own home – more of a break. So it’s not all bad.

Obviously I can’t speak for Holly Willoughby, but as it’s her third pregnancy she must know her own body and limits – so if she wants to do it, why not? Pregnancy isn’t an illness, so if you feel up to working really close to your due date, why shouldn’t you?

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21 Comments

  1. July 1, 2014 / 7:13 am

    Slightly different, but for P1 I was at school right up until I gave birth – granted she was 7 weeks early. With P2 I was basically told by my midwife that because I was at high risk of having another prem, I was to take my maternity leave at work from 30 weeks. So I did and she didn’t arrive until 39+1. Meaning if I hadn’t decided to leave my job that I would of had 9 weeks less with her. It was quite nice to have the rest leading up though as I was very tired.

  2. July 1, 2014 / 7:15 am

    It’s such a personal decision! And hey, it’s hardly like Holly is working down a mine so I don’t blame her for planning to work right up until the end. Like you said, it’s her third pregnancy so she knows her own body. With my first baby I had an amazingly healthy pregnancy and worked right up until my due date, leaving work on the Friday before he was due on the Tuesday. As it happened, he was ten days late so I was ‘forced’ to rest! Sometimes babies have plans of their own 😉

  3. July 1, 2014 / 7:23 am

    Like you, I’m self employed too. You’re right, there isn’t a soft landing maternity package…there’ll be me, at my sewing machine on a birthing ball until I start to push and sadly I’ll be back not long after I give birth…only with a baby strapped to my back. This is baby number three and it’s very different from my first which involved watching daytime tv and eating my body weight in peaches. Pregnancy is just that, and I just need to slot it into my existing life!

  4. July 1, 2014 / 9:17 am

    I’ve never worked outside the house when I’ve been pregnant, so always just ‘carried on as usual’!! But I think it’s entirely up to the individiual – if you feel up to working to the end then why not?

  5. July 1, 2014 / 9:25 am

    Lucky Holly W to have a choice. There are thousands of women who don’t, and need the money so much they have to keep working. There’s also probably thousands of pregnant women who would love to work and can’t find a job. Yeah, it’s about personal choice (I wanted to work till 39 weeks but like you, Gill, was defeated by my own body), but in many cases, it’s about necessity.

  6. July 1, 2014 / 9:53 am

    With Holden I worked right up until I was 39 weeks as I wanted to have as much time as possible afterwards and I was feeling totally fine. I do sit at a desk all day and drove to and from work so it was pretty easy. However, as I was induced at 40+1 so I only ended up having 1 week of maternity leave on my own which is hindsight wasn’t long enough. If we have another I would definitely finish earlier and keep Holden in nursery until my 6 weeks 90% pay ran out so I could have some time to myself!

    • July 1, 2014 / 9:55 am

      Also, now we live out of the city and I get the train to work so I could see me getting sick of that quicker with not getting a seat etc!

  7. July 1, 2014 / 12:58 pm

    I couldn’t WAIT to leave for maternity leave with Wilf and did so at 34 weeks too. I was massive and had to walk up three flights of stairs to my office and actually didn’t really like my job tbh! If we do it again I’ll work all the way up to my due date because my blog is my job and it’s very easy to do from the sofa! I’m also not sure how much of a maternity leave I will give myself next time round as we were wondering if Tom might be able to take in instead whilst I work..it’s great that we have the choice though isn’t it! In the US you get about 2 weeks and the rest you have to take as sick leave! x

  8. July 1, 2014 / 1:03 pm

    I left my job at 36 weeks as it was in the middle of a crazy heat wave in 2010 and work was getting a bit full on. In hind sight this was the best decision and I would do the same if I was able too. I thinking you can afford it why not? X

  9. July 1, 2014 / 1:28 pm

    I’m not naturally good at being pregnant; I spend the entire time irritable and uncomfortable, and suffer terribly with nausea and sciatica. With my first baby, I had a scare at 24 weeks, so gave up at the earliest possible moment, but with my second I worked until 33 weeks – I would have stayed longer, but I was working in retail, and as anyone who works in retail will know, there’s not a lot that a pregnant woman can do in a shop! I think it’s a really personal choice – sometimes the tiredness and discomfort just gets too much, other people find they don’t really feel any different.

  10. July 1, 2014 / 2:26 pm

    I found out I was pregnant just before the holiday allowance for the year reset at work. Ramona was due near the beginning of a month, so I set mat leave to start on the 1st of her due month and took a full month’s paid holiday beforehand. As I only had statutory maternity pay, I knew I might only be able to take 9 months (in the end, I was able to do the last 3 unpaid), so I wanted to maximise the time; plus, I was due in summer and being 8 months pregnant on the Tube during the three hottest weeks of the year – which, Sod’s Law, WOULD happen right then – did not appeal. Just as well, as I spent the last three weeks with some really strange sleeping patterns and all I wanted to do was take a nap every three hours and eat my (now considerable) body weight in cheese…

  11. Jade
    July 1, 2014 / 2:42 pm

    I worked to 37 weeks & honestly could of managed another week or two. I had a short distance on the train to work so could just about stand the ignorant selfish wouldn’t offer their seat for 20 min journey! In the end M was 5 days late. As we all know everyone is different and it is personal preference. I presume with a second (if a second!) that your situation is entirely different from your first pregnancy as you have your first child to consider also

  12. shirley
    July 1, 2014 / 4:39 pm

    I think it should be left to each individual person.not so long ago everyone had to take three months off before due date to rest but who can do this.I painted the outside of my house as I was so bored

  13. July 1, 2014 / 6:03 pm

    I think if you can then great, especially as I know a lot of women like to do it so they can take longer off after the baby is born. I personally would have struggled though, especially second time round as I was SO tired! I used to put a film on repeat for Cherry then sit there trying not to fall asleep all afternoon! The tiredness was so bad that even after a bad night with a newborn I didn’t feel as bad! x

  14. July 1, 2014 / 6:13 pm

    When I was pregnant with G, I was DREADING leaving. I loved my job so much and actually cried on my last day. That said, I did pull mat leave forward by two weeks because I was SO TIRED and had mild SPD which meant I could only walk at a snail’s pace. Like you say, each to their own, and when it’s someone’s third baby, they pretty much know their capabilities.

  15. July 1, 2014 / 9:49 pm

    Well, it might be a personal decision in the UK but it’s not so much in Switzerland where your maternity leave begins on the day the baby is born and then ends 14 weeks later. Yeah, Switzerland loves mums 😉 With my eldest, I finished work on the Friday and he was born on the Wednesday (I took the Monday and Tuesday as sick leave). With my second, I had a scheduled c-section so finished work a handful of days earlier using my holiday entitlement. To be honest, I didn’t really feel like I needed to finish any earlier. While it might have been nice to put for feet up a little more, I’d probably have only sat watching rubbish TV with a massive bar of chocolate. Being in work was quite nice despite working on some truly dreadful and very stressful projects at the time. Glutton for punishment, hey?!

  16. July 2, 2014 / 12:18 am

    I think it’s so individual. Some people might have SPD, antenatal depression, hyperemesis gravidarum… Personally, I needed to stop working earlier in my first pregnancy but in my second I felt amazing until almost the very end when I felt awful! I didn’t realise it was a sign I was about to have the baby though…

  17. July 2, 2014 / 10:15 pm

    such a personal thing, isn’t it, and so job/situation specific. Holly is lucky to have a choice & a job which allows her to, but it should be her choice.

    I read somewhere that it was recommended if possible to not work full time past 32 weeks – I went on mat leave at 34, but then I moved from Somerset to London and had to find a GP and a hospital to give birth in, so I needed some time!

    That said, I’m glad to have had the break between working full time in an office and having the baby – without that it would have been far too much.

    Interesting that it’s caught people’s imaginations though – I would have thought it’s a fairly common occurrence?

  18. July 3, 2014 / 8:05 am

    personally, i think it just depends on the job you do, and if you actually feel comfortable doing it!

  19. July 4, 2014 / 9:31 am

    I agree it’s totally up to the person – as pregnancy effects people in different ways. I was working the first time round but had terrible back ache and sciatica at around 32 weeks making it impossible to work but others sail through with hardly any issues so if you feel healthy and fit why not?

    Laura x

  20. September 11, 2015 / 4:43 pm

    I’ve been super lucky with the timing of my due date. It’s 7th January so I’ll be starting maternity on 4th January. But the company has an obligatory shut-down over Christmas, and I have a week and half of non-transferable holidays to use, so I’ll actually stop work on 11th Dec at 36+1.. This was all a fluke of course. I think if I had been due another time of year, I’d probably have worked until 38/39 weeks and been very grumpy about it.

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