Rethinking Maternity Leave

Worries over job security, money have many women reducing time off after baby.

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Facing a tough economic situation across the U.S. and rising unemployment, more and more women are growing afraid of taking maternity leave, ABC News reports. Although it's illegal to fire a worker because she's pregnant and opting for some time off, it can be difficult to document that you were let go because you're expecting, which stirs worries in many women. However, there have been recent reports that working women are filing more pregnancy-bias complaints.

On the flip side, the cost of an extended leave is also something more families can't afford in a difficult economy, according to ABC News. One California new mom shared her anxiety, saying: "The longer that I'm away from work, the more I'm worried that they're going to discover that like, hey, 'Maybe we don't really need her.'" So instead of six months, she's only taking six weeks of maternity leave from her job at a college.

According to a Working Mother magazine poll, one-third of respondents said the recession was affecting their decision to take unpaid maternity leave.

Experts advise women to ask a lot of questions about their company's maternity policy, and not to feel bullied into taking less time than they deserve. While you're still on the job, check out our Working Woman's Guide to Pregnancy to see how you can stay fit and healthy and employed until your due date. Plus, 10 Challenges, 10 Solutions for a detailed look at working moms' issues. Also, check out our experts' advice on how to stay in the game so it's easier to get back into the working world after a post-baby hiatus.

U.S. benefits are lagging, so you're not alone in this fight! (Too bad we can't be like the British in this department.) After all, as Crib Notes reported in January, maternity leave benefits babies and moms.

Plus, when it comes to "babynomics," remember that you can have a baby without breaking the bank. Here's how some families nationwide are doing it.