Can I Get Extended Maternity Leave If I Have A C-Section?

Arranging maternity leave with your employer can be a slightly stressful situation. You want to be prepared for everything and anything that might happen. You also want to be able to enjoy the first few weeks of baby bliss with your newborn, and Maternity leave laws vary depending on where you live and how your baby comes into the world. So, you may be wondering, can I get extended maternity leave if I have a C-section?

The answer is most likely yes, but the technicalities are a little bit sticky, and deciphering your state laws and employer's policies may be a bit overwhelming.

The most important part of requesting your maternity leave is talking to your employer's Human Resources division about what general maternity leave entails. According to BabyCenter, you will most likely be required to use a combination of sick days, personal days, vacation days, and unpaid family leave during your maternity leave. You may also rely on short-term disability insurance if you've undergone a C-section, to replace part of your income during this time. Additionally, the American Pregnancy Association(APA) noted that the percentages paid and the lengths of time of coverage vary, so it's important to confirm what your short-term disability policy covers. You'll want to research your employer's specific guidelines, and calculate how many sick, personal, and vacation days you have left "in the bank" to get a clear picture of how much paid leave you're likely to have while on maternity leave.

Only four states in the U.S. currently offer paid maternity leave, and in 2014, Fortune reported that the U.S. ranks last in the world when it comes to maternity leave. The closest thing the U.S. has to nation-wide mandated maternity leave is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which still only covers 59 percent of workers.

Though there is no law that states you cannot receive an extended maternity leave if you have a C-section, you may use FMLA leave (12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave) in tandem with your maternity leave, if you qualify for FMLA. According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, only two in five women quality for FMLA leave, and the Department of Labor noted that FMLA does not cover employees of smaller companies (and still only guarantees unpaid leave.)

Because maternity leave and FMLA coverage varies from state to state, and from company to company, it's important to meet with your Human Resources department in advance to find out exactly what their policy is, and what happens should you require extended maternity leave. According to Working Mother, a Families and Work Institute report found in that in 2008, only 16 percent of companies offered fully paid maternity leave.

Certain companies, however, understand that new parents need time to recover and bond with their new baby. More companies have also found that allowing extended leave and keeping new parents happy makes more sense than replacing them, which can cost anywhere between 50 and 200 percent of a worker's salary, according to Forbes. In 2012, the New York Times reported that Google not only lengthened its maternity leave from three months to five, but made it a fully paid leave — and found that new-mom attrition decreased by 50 percent.

Though maternity leave in the U.S. may not be the most generous, especially when compared with the rest of the world, you'll want to research your state laws and employer's policy to prepare for your time off of work.