It's not unreasonable to assume that your company will take care of you if you get pregnant. If you've been a loyal and hardworking employee, surely that's to be expected, right? Sadly not. The horror stories of pregnant employees being sidelined, shafted, moved to a lesser role or made redundant are legion.
Emma was one of four people running a big and busy department of a PR firm. Her bosses were full of praise, but then she got pregnant and her duties changed. "They gave up on giving me interesting work as I would only be going off on maternity leave. So for six months I was bored senseless. Then a week before my due date they restructured and tried to force me to apply for a lesser job". There are many Emmas out there.
What's more, starting a family often means a cut in salary. A recent study found that working mums earn less after having a baby - even though 73% of women say they are better employees as a result of becoming a mum.
Depressingly - yet perhaps inevitably - recent research by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) found that half of women believe that having a baby poses such a risk to their career that they would consider remaining childless.
This comes as no surprise to Dana Denis-Smith, a former City lawyer and now CEO of Obelisk Support. "I can't think of a single woman I know who worked in the City whose job was the same when she came back after maternity leave. Either their responsibilities were shifted or their jobs weren't there anymore and they were offered a redundancy package".
It comes to something when women are forced out of a job they love - or to choose not to have a family, even if they want one, for the sake of their career. Companies are now springing up to tackle this problem, helping women to navigate their way through the maternity maze, companies like Babyproof Your Life, which offers confidential coaching to help women shore up their careers well ahead of starting their families. Dana's company offers female lawyers flexible hours, working remotely. "They think nobody wants them, that they're 'just a mum' - and these are trained lawyers with years of experience".
Although many women find their confidence plummets after having a baby, when it comes back they tend to become way more focused, organised and dedicated to doing a good job in the time available than they ever were before. It's time for employers to stop punishing women for having babies, and recognising them for the asset they are.