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  • Writer's pictureMama Witzig

Maternity Leave: Understanding Your Rights and Options

Updated: Jul 31, 2023


As the anticipation of motherhood grows, many women have questions about maternity leave and what to expect in terms of time off from work. Maternity leave policies vary across countries, industries, and organizations, making it essential for every expectant mother to understand her rights and available options. In this blog post, we will delve into the factors that affect the duration of maternity leave and provide a guide to help you navigate this crucial period of your life. Note: this blog post is focused on maternity leave, but the same goes for paternity leave, and applies to adoption.

Couple gazing down at newborn

1. Legal Protections:

The first step towards understanding your maternity leave entitlement is to familiarize yourself with the legal protections specific to your country or region. Various countries, such as Denmark, Sweden, and Canada, have implemented comprehensive family leave policies, offering generous maternity leave durations. The United States, on the other hand, operates under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.

Some states have additional laws regarding family leave. I live in Oregon, where we just passed a law for paid family leave! I just missed it for my first child, but looking forward to it for future baby number two!

Oregon Paid Family Leave / Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA)

Oregon Paid Family Leave, also known as the Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA), is a state-level program that provides paid time off for employees to spend with their family members who require care or support. The program is designed to help workers balance their professional and personal lives, ensuring that they can prioritize their family's well-being.

2. Company Policies:

In addition to legal protections, many organizations have their own maternity leave policies to support their employees. These policies may provide additional benefits, such as paid leave, extended time off, or flexible work arrangements during the postpartum period. It is crucial to familiarize yourself with your company's policies and procedures regarding maternity leave. This information can typically be found in your employee handbook or obtained by reaching out to your HR department. Understanding your rights within your specific workplace will help you plan and advocate for the leave you desire.

The company I work for partners with Mutual of Omaha to pay 6 weeks of disability (60% pay) to the new mother after birth. It isn't much but it helps. The rest of my 3 months of maternity leave was either PTO or unpaid. I wish I could have taken more time as 3 months went by so fast, but I stretched it as far as I could financially.

3. Considerations for Leave Duration:

While maternity leave policies can vary, several factors may influence the duration of your leave:

a. Legal and Company Policies:

As mentioned earlier, legal protections and company policies will play a significant role in determining the duration of your maternity leave. Ensure you are aware of your entitlements and any contractual agreements that may be in place. Save your PTO bank through pregnancy to use for leave.

b. Personal Health and Recovery:

Every woman's postpartum recovery experience is unique, and it's important to consider your specific health needs when determining the duration of your leave. Discuss your recovery timeline with your healthcare provider to make an informed decision.

c. Financial Considerations:

Financial stability is a significant concern for many expectant mothers. Consider the impact of taking unpaid leave versus utilizing any available paid time off or governmental benefits. Planning your budget and exploring potential sources of financial support in advance will help guide your decision-making process.

d. Childcare Arrangements:

Finding suitable childcare arrangements for your baby will likely play a role in determining the duration of your maternity leave. Be realistic about the time needed to secure reliable childcare and factor this into the length of your leave.

Mother face to face with newborn, almost touching noses


Determining the appropriate duration of maternity leave is a personal decision influenced by a combination of legal protections, company policies, health considerations, and personal circumstances. Understanding your rights under the law and within your workplace is crucial in order to make informed choices about the length of your leave. Whether you have access to generous paid leave or are navigating an unpaid leave scenario, it's essential to plan ahead, consider your needs and those of your family, and communicate your intentions to your employer in a timely manner. Remember, maternity leave is an invaluable period that allows you to focus on your health, bond with your baby, and adjust to the new dynamics of parenthood. Embrace this time wholeheartedly and ensure you prioritize your well-being and the well-being of your growing family.

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