Your Pregnancy, Your Career and the Recession

Katy Rank Lev wasn't sure how or when to tell her employer she was pregnant.

A part-time instructor at the University of Pittsburgh, the 27-year-old didn't want her pregnancy to dictate whether the school renewed her annual teaching contract. She also worried that the sour economy and the university's recent hiring freeze on full-time faculty might not bode well for her.

"I really had no idea how to navigate work and being pregnant," said Rank Lev, who's now 30 weeks along and, as luck would have it, is due during her school's summer break.

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So she waited. And waited. Until one day, a coworker asked if Rank Lev had some news to share after seeing her "waddling up the stairs."

Rank Lev isn't alone in her fear of telling her employer about her pregnancy, especially in today's miserable job market. Check out any online community of new moms and you'll find dozens of similar stories.

Sure, there are laws that prevent employers from canning a female employee simply because she decided to breed.

But throw a baby bottle and you're bound to hit an expectant mom or a new one who found the timing of her pink-slip a tad suspicious. In fact, pregnancy discrimination charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have increased by almost 50 percent in the past decade, with 6,285 charges filed in 2008.

You can't predict how management will react to the news of your imminent parenthood. But if you want to hold onto your job, there's a lot you can do to convince your boss that you'll still willing to pull your weight -- now, and once that bundle of joy arrives.

Don't Wait for Them to Speculate

Though you may be afraid to drop the bomb, don't wait till someone notices your baby bump and does it for you.

If you're in your second trimester and you've started telling friends and family the good news, clue your boss in too, said Cali Williams Yost, CEO of Work+Life Fit, Inc., a firm that helps companies design flexible work programs.

If you plan to keep your job, be as specific and clear as possible -- about your due date, the dates your maternity leave will begin and end, and the fact that you'll be back at work with bells on post-leave, said Williams Yost. Don't make people guess when and whether you'll be available for key projects and business trips in the coming months.

"You want to drive the story of your pregnancy because if you don't, there will be a lot of assumptions driving the story that might not be true," she explained. "And in today's tough environment, you want your manager's decisions to be based on fact."

This is the tack a New York communications specialist I'll call Jessie took last month, after getting the thumbs up at her 12-week doctor's appointment. (Jessie, who's 31, asked to remain anonymous out of fear for her job.)

Upon hearing the news, Jessie's boss said all the wonderfully reassuring things a good manager should: that she was a valuable employee he'd come to rely on and that if she needed to pull back on her responsibilities, it wouldn't be a problem.

But, Jessie told me via e-mail, "Before he could finish the sentence, I said, 'No -- things will be status quo. Period. Appreciate your support, but I expect that I will not miss a beat.'"

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