Cathy Ranson, editor at ChannelMum.com says: “Working is stressful at the best of times and never more so than when you’re building a whole new human too.  The weeks just before you go on maternity leave can be mentally and physically exhausting – just when you have the most to do at work to prepare for leaving. But while you need to stay professional, the health and wellbeing of you and your baby comes first, so only do as much as you can manage.”

Are you gearing up for your maternity leave?

Are you gearing up for your maternity leave?

With that in mind, here are her top tips for those looking ahead to their maternity leave, and wondering how to best prepare...

Cathy’s top tips:

Work from home – If your job allows, ask your boss if you can work the odd day from home. Firms have to be flexible with reasonable requests and it will be less strain for you than the daily commute.

Stagger your start and finish times – If you have to be at your workplace, see if you can stagger your start and finish times to avoid the worst of the rush hour. If you work shifts, request to be moved to days so you get better quality of sleep in the important weeks before your baby is born.

Take lots of health snacks and water – Good nutrition is vital in the last few weeks of pregnancy. Keep hydrated, allow yourself plenty of loo breaks as the baby will be pressing on your bladder, and take health snacks to work so you don’t reach for the vending machine chocolate and crisps.

Don’t feel you have to stick to your agreed finish date - If working is wearing you out to the point of exhaustion, bring your date to go on maternity leave forward. Ask HR if you can take up unused holiday to do this.

Check your benefits – Does your company offer benefits like childcare vouchers, extended maternity pay or a creche? See what you are entitled too as work schemes can make all the difference to your finances. 

Find your tribe – Are there other working mums at your workplace? If so, consider starting up a parents' support group to help each other. Find a mentor who has ‘been there and done it’ combining work and kids and go to her for help and advice.

Do a thorough handover – and be on call if you are needed. Even though you may be feeing ‘demob happy’, stay professional at all times. The next person stepping into your shoes needs your help. Leave everyone at work feeling you are someone who they want to welcome back after mat leave.

Consider your future too – Use these weeks to look at each element of your job and consider how it will fit with a new addition to the family. Can you cover the cost of childcare to come back full-time? Would part-time hours be best if your company allows? Or is your job not compatible with parenthood? Be cool, calm and rational and don’t make any hasty decisions – but use this time to have a very thorough think.