“You’ve survived the first trimester! Congratulations! But there’s still plenty to do before your baby arrives. Here’s a checklist to help you get organised.”
1. Keep taking your daily folic acid (400mcg) and calcium (10mcg) supplement
I’ve talked about the importance of taking these supplements before (see my post “Looking back at the first trimester“), so I’m not going to repeat it here. But I’d like to reiterate that if you’re like me and you can’t be bothered with buying different supplements separately, you can always take an all-in-one pregnancy tablet (such as Pregnacare) which contains all the vitamins your body needs. I just find it so much easier.
2. Keep going to your antenatal appointments with your midwife
If this is your first pregnancy, you’ll have 3 antenatal appointments during your second trimester (one at 16 weeks, another one at 25 weeks and the last one at 28 weeks); otherwise, you’ll have 2 at 16 weeks and 28 weeks. Your midwife will test your urine sample for protein, check your baby’s heartbeat, bump size and your blood pressure at every appointment, and at your 28 weeks appointment, she’ll also take your blood sample. They’re all pretty routine really and each appointment lasts about 40 minutes or so (depending on whether you have a lot of questions to ask or not).
3. Go to your anomaly scan appointment
This is a detailed scan, which checks how your baby is growing and for physical abnormalities in your baby. This is also the scan at which you’ll be able to find out the sex of your baby (if you want to, of course). It’s supposed to last about 20 minutes, but mine took almost an hour because my baby just refused to move so the sonographer couldn’t check everything properly the first time. I had to move around, jump up and down to encourage my baby to change position. Luckily, she did; otherwise, I’d have to come back for another scan and that would be a pain. As with your dating scan, don’t forget to bring some change if you want to buy photos of your baby.
4. It’s probably time to break the news to friends and family
At the end of the day, this is your pregnancy, so you should have the ultimate control as to when to tell your family and friends and how to go about it. My husband and I did it in stages – we told our family after my first scan and we started telling our close friends when I was in my second trimester. But that’s about it; I suppose, we’ll tell more people after the baby’s here.
5. Keep yourself active, healthy and comfortable
Basically… watch what you eat, listen to your body, take extra care when taking any medicine (check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist if you’re not sure), exercise, get enough rest, etc, etc. I’ve written about this in my post “Looking back at the first trimester“, because, well, you should start doing all the above right from the start anyway and continue to do so throughout your pregnancy.
6. If you haven’t already, start organising your finances and prepare for your new arrival
Again, this is something that I think you should look at from as early as possible, especially if you want to get your hands on amazing bargains. So, if you haven’t done so, make a checklist of what you need for your baby and slowly buy them when you spot a good price. My husband and I managed to save more than £1000 just by being organised. If you’re interested to know how we did it, read my post “For all those bargain and freebies hunters out there“. While you’re at it, don’t forget to think about insurance, childcare, benefits, etc. On that note, you might also be interested in “From bump to baby: understanding your benefits entitlement and financial options“.
7. Go for a holiday
You and your partner might not get the chance to go on a holiday alone together for a while after your baby is born. For most couple, the second trimester is the perfect time to book a vacation – you’re not feeling as sick and tired as you were in your first trimester and you’re also not feeling the strain of being heavily pregnant yet. My husband and I went to Tenerife for a week when I was 28 weeks pregnant – it was perfect, it was a beach holiday, so I was able to relax and it’s nice to be able to get some sunshine when it’s freezing in London. If you’re flying, remember to get a letter from your midwife stating that you’re fit to fly. I didn’t have to show mine but it’s good to have it with you just in case.
8. Start shopping for maternity clothes (if you need to)
I didn’t. I’m now 33 weeks pregnant and I’m still wearing my normal clothes. I just stay away from jeans, tight-fitting skirts, etc, and embrace leggings, loose dresses and jumpers. I personally think that if you choose your clothing smartly, you can get away from not having to spend money on maternity wear. My post “Style bible: ‘non-maternity maternity’ wear” should give you some ideas on how to choose what I like to call ‘double-function’ pieces.
9. Decide which antenatal classes you’d like to go to and book your place
The free NHS-run classes or the pretty expensive NCT-run classes or both – the choice is yours. I signed up for the NCT-run classes and paid £190 for 5x 2 hours classes. Why? Because I read and heard that they’re much better than the NHS-run ones. Unfortunately, I was wrong. In my opinion, they’re just not worth the hefty price tag. You can read all about it here and here… the classes are not finished yet, but I’ve come to terms that I will not learn anything from them. I’m utterly disappointed – I’ve attended 3 classes, that’s 6 hours, and I think it’s worth 10 minutes on google. So if you asked me, I’d say, go to the free ones and google everything else. And of course, bring your partner along to the antenatal classes.
10. Start thinking about your maternity leave, benefits and entitlements
Remember that you have to tell your boss that you’re pregnant by the 15th week before your baby’s due date and you also have to tell your boss in writing the date you propose to go on maternity leave. If you’re not entitled to receive statutory maternity pay, you may be able to apply for maternity allowance, and there also other benefits that you may be entitled to depending on your circumstances. So it’s a good time to start sorting these out and don’t wait until the last minute.
1. Child benefit
You can get child benefit if you’re responsible for a child under 16 (or under 20 if they stay in certain education courses or training programmes). The current rate is £20.50 for the eldest or only child and £13.55 per child for additional children. It’s usually paid every 4 weeks into your bank account. The claim for child benefit can only be backdated for up to 3 months. So, if you’ve just had a baby, make sure you submit your claim before your baby is 3 months old.
Read more about child benefit on Gov.UK.
2. NHS prescriptions and dental care
These are free while you’re pregnant and until your baby is 1 year old. Children also get free prescriptions until they’re 16.
To claim your free prescriptions, ask your doctor or midwife for Form FW8 and send it to your health authority, who in turn, will send you an exemption certificate that lasts for a year after your due date. If you’re only claiming after your baby is born, you’ll need to fill in Form A in leaflet P11 NHS Prescriptions, which you can get from your doctor or JobCentre Plus.
To claim your free dental care, all you have to do is tick the relevant box on the form provided by your dentist or show your exemption certificate.
3. Healthy start vouchers
Basically… free milk, infant formula, fruit and vegetables, and vitamins. Not everyone qualifies though. You’ll qualify if you’re under 18 and pregnant; otherwise, you’ll need to be at least 10 weeks pregnant or have a child under 4 and you or your family are on certain benefits (for example, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, etc).
To check if you qualify, visit the NHS Healthy Start website.
4. Tax credits
There are two types of tax credit: child tax credit, which gives financial support for children, and working tax credit, which gives financial support for people in lower-paid jobs. If your household income is more than £26,000 (for a family with one child) or £32,600 (for a family with 2 children), you might not qualify for tax credits. But, whether you can actually get tax credits will depend on your circumstances. Use the tax credit questionnaire and the tax credit calculator as your starting point. If you’re still unsure, call the HMRC Tax Credit Helpline.
If you qualify for working tax credit, you could also get extra tax credits to help with the costs of childcare while you’re working. Read more about childcare and tax credits on Gov.UK.
5. Sure start maternity grant
Sure start maternity grant is a one-off payment of £500 to help towards the costs of having a child. You usually qualify if you’re expecting your first child (or multiple birth and have children already) and you’re on certain benefits (for example, income support, income-based jobseeker’s allowance, etc). You must submit your claim within 11 weeks of your baby’s due date or within 3 months after your baby is born.
Read more about sure start maternity grant on Gov.UK.
If you’re planning to return to work fairly soon after the birth of your baby (like me), you might want to think in advance about childcare as it can take some time for you to find a satisfactory arrangement. For example, if you want to send your baby to the nursery, you’ll want to start looking from as early as the second trimester; from what I heard, places (at both state and private nurseries) get filled up incredibly quickly. Or maybe, nursery is not an option because you may have a demanding career that requires you to work long hours (again, like me) and you just can’t commit yourself to sending and picking up your baby at a fixed hour each day. In that case, you might want to think about hiring someone to look after your baby at home – a nanny, childminder, or perhaps you have a relative who’s willing to help? And of course, you’ll have to consider the costs – whichever way you do it (unless you have an incredibly supportive and generous relative), childcare is expensive! Be prepared to pay around £150 – £200 a week for it, and that’s a conservative figure according to everyone I spoke to (I’m talking about London, of course).
Here are a few websites you can use as a starting point in your research:
7. Life insurance
Now that you have a baby, you probably should start looking into life insurance (if you don’t already have one). You’ve got to think about your family well-being if something should happen to you. There are quite a number of reputable companies out there; so do your research. In the meantime, you could sign up to a £10,000 free life cover which takes effect from the day you apply until your baby’s first birthday from companies such Post Office. Asda used to offer it as well but I can’t seem to find it on their website now.
8. Junior investment
Once you’ve got your life insurance sorted out, you might also want to start thinking about investing for your child’s future with the Junior Individual Savings Account (Junior ISA), be it a cash Junior ISA or a stocks and shares Junior ISA. You can open an account with any banks, building societies, credit unions, friendly societies and stock brokers.
Read more about Junior ISA on Gov.UK.
9. Useful websites you can (and probably should) refer to:
Maternity and paternity benefits and leave on the NHS’s website and Gov.UK, which contains every possible information you need to know.
PS: If you’re an employee, you might also be interested in this article: “From bump to baby: your rights and entitlements at work”
1. Decide when to tell your boss
You don’t have to tell your employer until the 15th week before the week your baby is due, but you won’t be able to take time off for antenatal appointments until you’ve told them about your pregnancy. So, if you don’t want to use up your annual leave to go for antenatal care, you might want to tell them from as early as the first trimester or the beginning of the second trimester since that’s when your first appointment usually takes place.
2. Paid time off for antenatal appointments
You’re legally entitled to paid time off for antenatal care, but as I’ve said above, you’d have to tell your employer about your pregnancy from quite early on. Still, it might be worth doing so, considering that the paid time off not only cover medical appointments; it includes antenatal or parenting classes and relaxation sessions as long as they’re recommended by your doctor or midwife. Dads-to-be don’t get this right, I’m afraid.
3. Your health and safety, and protection at work
Once your employer knows about your pregnancy, they have a legal requirement to protect your health and safety at work (if necessary, by offering suitable alternative work). If they can’t do that, they might have to give you time off on full pay, regardless of how long you’ve worked for them. You’re also protected against unfair treatment, discrimination and dismissal, and your employer can’t change your contract terms and conditions without your agreement.
4. Maternity leave
When you tell your employer about your pregnancy (and remember that it can’t be later than 15 weeks before the week your baby is due), you should also tell them when you’d like to start your maternity leave. Your employer will then have 28 days to respond. You’re entitled to 52 weeks (1 year) of maternity leave made up of 26 weeks of ordinary maternity leave and 26 weeks of additional maternity leave, regardless of how long you’ve worked for your employer. You can usually start your leave up to the 11th week before the week your baby is due. You don’t have to take the whole 52 weeks if you don’t want to, but you must take at least 2 weeks’ leave (4 if you work in a factory) after your baby is born. If you want to change your return to work date, you must give your employer at least 8 weeks’ notice. Maternity leave doesn’t affect your other employment benefits (for example, pension contribution, private healthcare, etc) – you’ll get them as usual.
Read more about maternity leave on Gov.UK.
5. Statutory maternity pay
Statutory maternity pay is paid for up to 39 weeks. You’ll get 90% of your average weekly earnings before tax for the first 6 weeks and £138.18 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks. It usually starts when you go for your maternity leave. To qualify, you must: (i) earn on average at least £111 a week; (ii) give the correct notice (that is, you must tell your employer about your pregnancy at least 15 weeks before the week your baby is due); (iii) give proof you’re pregnant (get a letter or the MATB1 certificate from your doctor or midwife); and (iv) have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth.
Read more about maternity pay on Gov.UK and use the maternity entitlement calculator to check your eligibility.
6. Maternity allowance
If you don’t qualify for statutory maternity pay (for example, because you don’t meet one or more of the requirements above, or if you’re self-employed, or if you’ve recently stop working), don’t worry – you might be able to get maternity allowance for 39 weeks instead. To qualify, you must (i) be either employed or self-employed for at least 26 weeks in the 66 weeks before the week your baby is due; and (ii) earning at least £30 a week over any 13-week period. It doesn’t matter if you had different jobs or periods of unemployment during the 66-week period. All you need to do is send a completed MA1 claim form together with your pay slips, MATB1 certificate, and SMP1 form (a form from your employer which basically explains why you’re not qualified to claim statutory maternity pay from them) after you’ve been pregnant for 26 weeks to Jobcentre Plus.
If you’re not employed or self-employed, but you take part in the business of your self-employed spouse or civil partner, you could still get maternity allowance for 14 weeks.
Read more about maternity allowance on Gov.UK and use the maternity entitlement calculator to check your eligibility.
7. Paternity leave and pay
Dads-to-be (or a pregnant woman’s same-sex partner) have the right to 1 or 2 weeks paid ordinary paternity leave and up to 26 weeks’ paid additional paternity leave (but only if the mother returns to work). To qualify for the ordinary paternity leave, you must (i) have worked for your employer continuously for at least 26 weeks by the 15th week before the expected week of childbirth; (ii) be employed by your employer up to the date of birth; (iii) earn at least £111 a week; and (iv) give the correct notice (that is, you must tell your employer about the pregnancy at least 15 weeks before the week the baby is due).
It’s a bit different if you’re applying for an additional paternity leave or if you’re adopting a child. Read more about paternity leave and pay on Gov.UK.
8. What happens when you go back to work after your maternity leave?
You’re entitled to return to your original job, but if this is not possible, your employer may arrange for a suitable alternative job. If they can’t offer you a suitable alternative job, you may be entitled to redundancy pay.
You may also be entitled to request for a flexible working arrangement.
9. Useful websites you can (and probably should) refer to:
Maternity and paternity benefits and leave on the NHS’ website, and Pregnant employees’ rights on Gov.UK.