Photo courtesy of Sai De Silva
You’re pregnant—congratulations! Next comes the fun part: letting your friends and family know.
You don’t have to communicate the news to your workplace the moment you find out, and you probably won’t want to, but you do need to tell your team eventually because there’s prep work to be done. If your office isn’t exactly family-friendly or you’re unsure how people will react, the announcement can be stressful and nerve-wracking.
If that’s the case, start by reviewing your company’s policy regarding pregnancy and maternity leave, if they have one. There are laws in place that give you rights as a pregnant woman and a new mother, including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Here are tips on when and how to talk to your coworkers when you’re ready to share the news.
When to start telling coworkers
You don’t have to tell the workplace about your pregnancy as soon as you find out from a doctor. Many women wait until the end of the first trimester or early in their second trimester, about 12 weeks in.
This timeline can get trickier, however, if you start to show or you get morning sickness. But you’ll have enough on your mind at the beginning without the extra stress of telling your coworkers, so give yourself time to adjust.
Let your boss know about your pregnancy before others in the office. You may dread telling your manager—it’s not easy to let them know that you’ll be taking time off eventually, and this can be very stressful for women.
But it’s better to tell your boss first so they don’t hear it from someone else. Ask for a private meeting with your boss, and prepare some discussion points in advance, including your due date and your current plans for your maternity leave.
It also helps to have a tentative plan for delegating your work while your gone, and it will show your manager that you’ve been thinking about the transitional period.
Telling your manager is often the hardest part, so once you have this out of the way, take a deep breath. It will get easier.
You can then let HR know about your pregnancy and walk through the company’s practices and policies. Your manager may even want to talk to HR with you, so everyone is on the same page. Your conversation with HR will be ongoing as you prepare for maternity leave.
Let your HR rep know the same information you told your boss, including your due date, your plan for maternity leave, and your ideas for the transition. This is also when you can go over your rights in the office while you’re pregnant and on leave, and ask any questions you may have.
Your direct reports
If you have direct reports, tell them after you talk to your boss and HR so you’ll at least have a better idea of who they’ll report to while you’re away. It’s best to tell them before the entire team or office finds out, since you work closely with them and your absence will impact them most.
Your direct reports will also have questions about who will take on what responsibilities. So again, be prepared to answer these questions before you tell them—even if it’s just We’ll have a maternity leave plan in place. I haven’t nailed down the details yet, but let’s go ahead and get a date on the calendar to walk through it.
It may help to let your direct reports know that you can figure out a plan for your transition together. Involve them in the process as much as possible so they don’t feel out of the loop. After all, this is a great opportunity for them to step up and show the company that they can take on more responsibilities.
Your office BFF
Next up, you’ll probably want to tell your closest friend in the office. It can be hard not to tell this person first, but again, it’s better that no one knows until your boss knows.
Once you start telling coworkers, expect to get a lot of questions. They’ll want to know if you’re finding out the baby’s gender, when you’re due, how long you’ll take maternity leave, and much more.
This can be overwhelming, so it’s a good idea to have at least tentative answers to these questions; even if you have to reply with a firm: I don’t know yet.
After your boss, HR, and your direct reports know about the pregnancy, you can safely tell the rest of your team. This is when you can get creative. Maybe you could incorporate an inside joke to tell them or bring treats to work to celebrate. Think about which coworkers you want to tell in private, and which you can tell in front of others.
No matter how you tell them, your team is going to bombard you with a lot of questions, so make sure you’re ready for everyone to know and to talk about it openly.
If you’re the CEO or hold another executive position, your ideal order for telling the workplace will be HR, your direct reports, your team, then the company. When you tell the entire workplace, it may be smart to do so in a company-wide meeting. Make it clear that you have a plan and emphasize how exciting it is for you and your family—because it is. This shows the company that you’re taking the transition period seriously and that you want to involve them and be open about your plans.
Finally, if you work with outside clients, you may want to let some of them know that you’ll be away on maternity leave. However, you usually won’t have to do this as soon as you tell your workplace. Just make sure you have a clear point person for the client to get in touch with in your absence.
Announcing your pregnancy at work can be challenging. You’re not sure how others will react, and you don’t want anyone to view you differently. Just make sure you prepare answers to questions beforehand and come up with a tentative plan for maternity leave.
It may help you get through it by talking to a trusted coworker who’s gone through it before. Ask her how she handled telling the office and if she has any advice. This can be a huge asset for you as you go through your pregnancy and prepare for maternity leave.