As another part of the planning process, you must also consider when your last day of work will be. When will your maternity leave begin in relation to your due date? Many physicians who are fortunate enough to be healthy until the very end of their pregnancies plan to work until the start of labor. If your pregnancy goes PAST your due date, you may want to readdress the issue of when to stop working. Be aware that if you keep working, you will be asked with increasing frequency “You’re still here?” On the other hand, every day pregnant at home is a missed day with your baby a few weeks later. Again, this is a very personal question to which there is no right answer.
If you are a resident physician planning a maternity leave, then early discussions with the residency coordinator and/or the chief residents (the people who make the schedules) can engender support and minimize resentment from your colleagues. If you’re feeling energetic, you may be able to trade some overnight call with your colleagues into your second trimester. If possible, schedule call-free months at the end of pregnancy when you are likely to feel more tired. You might need to stop working earlier than you planned.
Whether you are a resident or an attending physician, if you work in an outpatient office setting, try to see regularly scheduled patients for as long as you can in your third trimester. Some office settings will have you see only “acute” or “sick visits” during the few weeks before you deliver. This strategy is employed to help minimize the rescheduling patients when you go into labor. However, if you see only sick patients in the few weeks before your baby is born, you are much more likely to get sick at a time when it is very important for you to be as healthy as possible. Consider lobbying for an “open access” schedule so that you can continue to see your own patients, not all of whom are contagious, until your maternity leave starts. If you are a surgeon, then you will need to stop scheduling and performing routine surgery at a certain time during your pregnancy, typically sometime between 32 and 36 weeks gestation.