Going back to work after a pregnancy loss can be tough. While some women treasure the distraction, others feel like they’re being forced into a "normal" life they’re not ready for yet. Communication between you, your doctor, and your boss are key elements to making your transition back to work smooth.
How Much Time Off?
The amount of time you need off from your job depends on a number of things.
- What type of loss you’ve had. It’s not uncommon for women who have had an early miscarriage to need just a few days off work to physically recover, while a woman who has had a stillbirth, or c-section will need more time.
- What kind of work you do. If you do physically demanding work that requires lifting, you will need longer to recover before returning to work.
- Your company’s policy. Although many employers are sympathetic to grieving parents, not all of them will be willing to work on a flexible return date, or extend your leave beyond any available sick hours.
- Your personal needs. Each woman will have her own requirements for how much time she would like off work. Communicate with your provider to get permission for a medically-appropriate leave of absence.
Talk to Your Boss
Pregnancy loss can be a very private experience for some people. If a miscarriage occurs very early in pregnancy, none of your coworkers or even your immediate supervisor may have known you were pregnant. As tempting as it might be to take a doctor’s excuse and treat your absence as a typical illness, there is value in sharing your experience with at least one trusted supervisor.
First of all, there is a possibility that you’ll have complications during your recovery that require further medical care. If your supervisor is already aware of your situation, it will be easier to get more time off if necessary.
Second, if you’ve decided on a funeral or memorial service, you may need additional time off just a few days after you’ve returned to work.
Finally, if you find that you are emotionally unprepared to be back at work, it will be helpful to have an ally on-site. You could need just a few minutes to yourself in a private place to gather your thoughts, or you might need to leave early. Your boss can be much more accommodating if he or she understands what you’re going through.
It’s up to you how much you want your co-workers to know about your loss. If you had already shared the news of your pregnancy at work, it may be easier to tell everyone about your loss than let rumors spread. However, if your pregnancy was still in the early stages, you don’t have to tell anyone anything you don’t want to share.
If you do decide to share your story, be clear in your communication.
- Consider using the proper medical term for your type of loss.
- Be specific with what you are comfortable discussing with co-workers, particularly if you DO NOT want to talk about your loss.
- If you are close with your coworkers, provide details about any memorial service, or where to send donations in your baby’s name.
One option for sharing the information is to designate a friend or supervisor to give out the details you’ve chosen before you return to work.
Be prepared, of course, that not everyone will respect your wishes with regard to how you want to talk or not talk about your loss. If you don’t feel comfortable asking a coworker to be more considerate, take the issue to a supervisor or someone from human resources.
If your employer is willing, you could consider a gradual return to work. Perhaps even starting by working from home. Then, return for a shortened day before working up to your regular schedule.
Even if your employer cannot accommodate an adjusted schedule, you could work with your doctor to make your return to work date for a Thursday or Friday so you get a break after just a couple of days.
- Make a to-do list. When you return, you may find it more difficult to concentrate than usual. Keep a notebook close, and jot down notes to yourself and create a to-do list to make sure you’re staying on top of your tasks. It also may help you to see the list getting shorter as the day goes on, knowing you can return home at the end of the day.
- Designate at least one support source. Pick out a friend, either at work or from your personal life, who you can turn to at a moment’s notice if things get tough emotionally. Sometimes all you need is a few minutes of support to get back to business.
- Make a backup plan. Although you should not return to work before you are physically recovered, there is always the chance that you’ll find work more difficult than you expected. Before going back, consider lining up a friend or family member who can pick you up if necessary. Also make sure you learn the warning signs of infection, excessive bleeding, and depression, so you know if it’s not longer safe to be at work.