Preparing for Pregnancy

Getting your life ready for pregnancy

If you’re trying for a baby or this is your first pregnancy, you’re probably finding it hard to imagine how much your life will change once you become a parent. It’s fairly common for first-time mums to be so focused on the birth that they give little thought to what comes next – but it can help lessen the shock if you make some practical preparations.

Here are some ideas of what you can do to prepare – mentally and practically – for having a baby.

Get your body ready for pregnancy

There are some simple lifestyle changes you can make to boost your health. These may help increase your chances of conceiving and having a healthy full term pregnancy. Read more.

Spend some time with a friend or relative who has a new baby

Caring for a baby full time can come as a shock, so spending time with another new mum will show you what’s it’s like. Observing the basics like feeding, changing nappies, bathing and dressing can help prepare you better and make you more confident about handling babies generally.

Do some financial planning

You’ll be earning less for a while after you’ve had your baby and possibly even losing one income if you decide to give up work for a few years, so think about the impact this will have on your finances.

Tempting as it may seem to have a last minute splurge on a last holiday, home improvements or even buying a new house – the reality is you might be better off saving money and/or paying off debts to help you through leaner times that may lie ahead. Some new parents rush to buy a bigger property for their growing family – only to struggle with mortgage repayments. Think carefully about taking on extra financial commitments – babies really don’t need that much extra space for the first few years.

Attend antenatal classes

Antenatal classes focus on the birth and how to cope with it and they are useful preparation for the birth. You can pick up some useful baby care tips too. In addition, you can meet other mums and dads-to-be and make friends with some of them. Pregnancy is a bonding experience and many parents make friendships that last years. You can book classes through your midwife or attend private classes run by the Parents Centre.

Find out about your paid parental leave entitlement

You are eligible for parental leave if you have worked for the same employer for an average of at least 10 hours a week (including at least one hour in every week or 40 hours in every month) in the six or 12 months immediately before the baby’s expected due date or adoption of a child under the age of six.

Employees who meet the six-month criteria are entitled to:

  • 14 weeks paid parental leave (PPL) for the mother or the primary adoptive caregiver (can be transferred or shared with your partner/spouse)
  • 10 days unpaid special leave for women during pregnancy
  • one weeks’ unpaid paternity leave for partners/spouses.

Employees who meet the 12-month criteria are also entitled to another one or two week’s of paternity/partner’s leave, and 38 weeks extended unpaid leave which can be shared between eligible parents in the 12 months after the birth or adoption of a child.

Eligible self-employed parents are also entitled to 14 weeks of PPL. In most cases, you need to give your employer at least three months written notice before the baby is due or due to be adopted. This must explain what type of leave, when you plan to start and how much you would like to take. You must also attach a certificate or letter from your lead maternity carer stating when the baby is due.

Once your employer has received your application they have 21 days to reply. It is rare that an employer will decline leave. When you have agreed on leave arrangements with your employer, you should make an application to Inland Revenue for parental leave payments as soon as possible.

Your parental leave payments will be paid fortnightly into your bank account by Inland Revenue. Employees and employers are free to negotiate other entitlements and your employment agreement may offer other payments or benefits relating to parental leave.

Further information (including application forms and sample letters) is available from:

The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment on 0800 20 9020 or the website 

Visit some daycare centres/childminders

If you think you will be returning to work, it may pay to do your homework to find out what childcare is available locally, as many daycare centres have waiting lists. Options include daycare centres, childminders and nannies. Ask friends too, as some nannies and childminders may look after more than one child or be about to stop working for a family and be available for yours.

Find out about flexible working

Parents of children aged 16 and under, or those who have disabled children, can request a flexible working pattern. This can help you balance caring for your child with work. Your employer has a legal duty to consider the request and must reply to you in writing.