The Problem with Due Dates

Ditch that 40-week estimated due date that you were given, even if they measured using an ultrasound! A study that came out in June of 2013 showed that the gestation period for normal, unassisted pregnancy through birth can vary up to five weeks. If this is the case, why aren’t more midwives and consultants giving ‘overdue’ mothers more information?

The study found that though the average length of pregnancy for these 125 mothers was 38 weeks and 2 days, the range of the data has a variance of 5 weeks (to be exact, 37 days). This study included 6 preterm births and 1 scheduled cesarean section, so the data is still not as untouched as I would like to find; but even with these few outliers, the conclusion showed that normal pregnancies are not limited to the 40-week gestation that we’re all used to.

Interestingly, it found that older women had longer pregnancies and heavier babies as well as a connection between mothers who were heavier babies at birth ended up having heavier babies and longer pregnancies. It all seems to follow the idea that pregnancy and birth are natural. The length of your pregnancy depends on how much time your body needs to make a baby. It makes sense that older women may take longer for their babies to ‘bake in the oven.’

The Problem with Due Dates:

  • The term “Due Date” implies that babies go bad, or become spoiled like spoiled milk, if they are still within the womb past their “due date.”
  • Midwives/Doctors use these like a one-size-fits-all measurement of when your baby is ready to come out
  • Midwives/Doctors use the estimated due date as a cut-off point for high-risk mothers for scheduling induction and cesarean sections
  • Not all mothers are the same, so many of these high-risk mothers (especially older mothers), end up having babies earlier than they would have if they refused interventions.
  • It is difficult to find ‘untouched’ data where midwives and doctors aren’t intervening. Very few populations allow women to go into labour spontaneously, so it is hard to gather the evidence against the 40-week gestation period.
  • Once mothers find out their 40-week estimated due date, they become disturbed mentally, emotionally and eventually physically if they go past the due date. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy where since mother is stressed out, the baby may come sooner than expected because mother is not relaxed. Babies may also delay the release of oxytocin for the mother’s uterus to start contracting because it senses stress in the mother. Midwives and doctors intervene (because they’re using the 40-week gestation period and are basically freaking out if you go a day past the due date).
  • Babies are getting drugged from the interventions and may have difficulty bonding with mother after birth.
  • Babies may be forced out of the womb prematurely, increasing health problems that include respiratory issues, digestive issues, and others.

What can you do about it?

  • Follow the example Duchess Kate Middleton and instead of telling people your due date, tell them a window of time: “I’m due the middle of April to the end of April.”
  • If you are past your due date, don’t stress out! Your baby just wants to spend more time in your womb, growing and getting ready for the big outside world!
  • A Harvard University study found that first time mother’s average gestation was 41 weeks and 1 day. But remember, there’s a variance of 5 weeks!
  • You don’t have to be induced or have a c-section if you’re past your due date. You can wait until you go into labour spontaneously. This is the best method to determine when your baby is ready to come out!
  • Especially if you are a high-risk mother (older or previously had a c-section), arm yourself with knowledge about birth.
  • Take a Bradley Method® Class

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