Your Pregnancy Handbag

It’s a good idea to stock your handbag with everything you need to deal with pregnancy symptoms and the daily reality of being pregnant on the go. Useful items include:

  • Sanitary napkins, for spotting or leaking

  • A plastic or lined paper bag, in case you are sick

  • A travel toothbrush, to freshen up after sickness

  • A small spray bottle of water, for when you experience flushes

  • Bottled water to keep you and your baby hydrated

  • Cream or lotion for dry skin or itching

  • Wet wipes for freshening up

  • Your doctor’s phone numbers

  • Details of an emergency contact, in the event that you become unwell and help is required

  • Ginger candy for nausea

  • Sunscreen, to help prevent melasma

  • Healthy snacks to keep blood-sugar levels steady

  • A suitable antacid

When to take extra care

If you carry an extra pair of shoes in your pregnancy handbag, make sure you wrap them in a plastic bag to prevent the spread of microorganisms picked up from the ground. Always rinse out your water bottle before refilling it to prevent bacterial growth, and get rid of any used tissues, which can harbor germs.

Maternity Rights and Benefits

Strict guidelines support your rights during pregnancy, but the provision for maternity leave and pay is still very poor. Take time to investigate what’s available to you, and how you can take advantage of it.

Maternity leave and pay

  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) mandates that your employer give you 12 weeks’ unpaid leave; however, this is only the case if your employer has at least 50 employees and meets other stipulations

  • You must be an “eligible” employee to take this leave (12 months working for your employer, including 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months)

  • At the end of your leave, your employer must let you return to your job or a similar job with equal salary, benefits, working conditions, and seniority; an employer is not required to hold the jobs of “key,” highly paid employees whose absence would financially harm the company. (You would be notified of your “key” status in writing.) If you and your spouse work for the same company, you are entitled to 12 weeks combined leave

  • Even if you and your company fall under FMLA, there is still no legislation to require the company to pay you for the time you miss

  • Check with your company—some do offer paid maternity leave; others will allow you to accrue sick leave and vacation time

  • Short-term disability (STD) may be offered by your state—it usually covers half to two-thirds of your salary (each participating state has its own set of rules and guidelines); coverage may last several weeks for normal births, over eight weeks for cesareans or complications; it may cover bed rest

  • You may be able to get private STD through your employer or a separate provider, which may pay up to two-thirds of your salary for several weeks

  • Always check state provisions, which may be more generous than FMLA

Benefits during leave

  • Money you receive from a state disability program is generally not subject to federal or state income tax; if you pay for the disability insurance yourself, the benefits you receive are also tax-free

  • Some states allow for extra, unpaid disability leave if you are unable to return to work; you won’t be paid, but your employer must hold your job

  • Unfortunately, FMLA doesn’t entitle you to take time off for prenatal appointments, so unless you have a flexible employer, you’ll need to schedule these for evenings or weekends, or use some of your sick leave

  • Some states provide some form of wage-replacement benefits, for which mothers can apply while on unpaid maternity leave

  • State temporary disability insurance (TDI) benefits can also be useful

  • Don’t forget to look into child tax credits and dependent exemptions

Enhanced maternity leave

  • Your employer may offer its own package with a longer period of leave and a higher percentage of income paid for the first six to eight weeks

  • Some companies continue to pay bonuses, retirement plan contributions, and some or part of your health insurance premiums


  • If you tell your company you don’t plan to return to work or your job is eliminated while you’re gone, your employer may stop paying premiums and may even require you to pay back money spent to maintain your health insurance while you were on leave

  • FMLA doesn’t require employers to allow you to accrue benefits or time toward seniority when you’re out on leave

  • Particular health and safety rules apply

  • You are protected against unfair treatment or dismissal in some instances

Prenatal time off

Advise your employer as early as possible when you plan to begin your leave, and when you plan to return. When possible, employees who are planning to use FMLA are required to tell their employers 30 days before their leave would begin.

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