Monday, May 17, 2010

Due Dates

I just wanted to make a couple of comments about due dates. I've had two students -- one who is a Bradley instructor now -- give birth this weekend. Both were "overdue." There was some anxiety leading up to the actual birth day, which I believe was inflicted by society's expectation of when the baby should be here. Surely it's dangerous to go past 40 weeks, right? 40 weeks is considered overdue in some circles these days.

I always joke that the baby doesn't have a little calendar in the womb with a little red pen with his/her due date circled like you do. You've probably heard the numbers on this one: only 5% of babies are actually born on their due date. And yet, so much hinges on that date.

If you have been given more than one due date, you always want to go with the later one, not the earlier one. This buys you time at the end of pregnancy. You may not think this is a big deal right now at 21 weeks -- surely you'll have your baby early -- but as 40 weeks comes and goes, it becomes a big deal.

You need to know your care provider's policy on going past 40 weeks. Maybe they won't even allow that to happen (red flag - get out of there!). Maybe it's one week, 10 days, or maybe they'll "allow" you the full 2 weeks. What if you have 2 dates that are, say, 4 days apart. At the end of pregnancy, every day is significant. This all goes back to believing that your body knows what it's doing. There is evidence that shows that it is the baby that triggers labor, so that must mean that the baby comes when he/she is ready. Labor will be better and baby will do better when he/she is born.

One of these moms that had her baby today had been induced with her other children. What I usually see in these situations is that the mom truly believes that her body is incapable of starting labor on its own. That was not necessarily the case with this particular mom, but I see/hear this quite often. Induction really does a number on a mom's confidence with future babies. This mom declined having her membranes stripped and water broken because she believed in her body. After weeks of contractions, her water broke last night, contractions picked up, they headed for the birth center, and had their baby 6 hours later. Beautiful.

The other mom I referred to, had her first baby at 42 weeks and was quite convinced that this one would come early. Needless to say, she was inching very close to that 42 week mark again! She may have all her babies closer to 42 weeks than 40. All 4 of mine came between 39 and 40 weeks. The more regular your cycle, the more likely you are to be closer to 40 weeks. I am exactly 28 days.

My favorite example when talking about due dates is comparing babies to popcorn. We pop popcorn every Sunday night for dinner in a Stir Crazy popcorn popper. You'll always hear a kernel or two pop much sooner than the others, but generally, they all pop real close together. Despite being exposed to the oil and the heat the same amount of time, there will always be several kernels that pop after all the rest are finished, even when I'm pulling the plug on the popper. And so it is with babies. They generally come around the same time, but it's impossible for the kernels to pop all at once -- that would be quite a sight in the popcorn popper! Some babies need more time than others, some a little less. Let's be respectful of the time they need to "cook." I know that some women truly believe they would have stayed pregnant forever, but I promise, it just ain't so!

17 comments:

Mallory said...

So true! Love the popcorn analogy! I have been telling people that my due date is "early September". The actual date I came up with, according to date of ovulation (not LMP) is August 31st. I just don't want people freaking out when I'm still pregnant on September 1st!! And it is likely that that will happen!

Another interesting thing about due dates: I have had TWO women this past weekend as me how I knew what my due date was, because I am not seeing an OB, and I am not having an ultrasound. Both of these women have had a baby recently. I guess they just relied on their doctor to give them a due date. But they had no idea how to come up with one on their own! Amazing!

Carmen said...

Wonderful post Donna and I loved the popcorn analogy too!

Rachel said...

I was so glad that when my first was born with an OB he came early so I didn't have to deal with that drama. Thanks for the popcorn analogy. I'll use that next time someone says something.

J-Momma said...

My SIL JUST called to ask me about this very thing! I'll be directing her here for sure!!!

Jessica said...

I'm 2 days away from my "due date," and it's amazing how many people have asked me when I'm getting induced or made some comment to the effect of "that baby needs to come out." The looks on people's faces almost make me laugh out loud when they see how comfortable I am with the idea that I might be "overdue." I trust my body, and can't wait to meet my baby...whenever that is! Great post!

Sarah said...

One of my student's relatives gave birth on May 3, her due date being April 17th. She even had a hospital birth!

I'm so glad my student has this example to look to (including the week of prodromal labor before baby arrived) and help her with her expectations for her own labor. This mama avoided induction and meds of any sort, and though she was tired after several sleepless nights, she is so glad she did it!

What a boost for a mom's confidence--to not wonder if her body works right. But it does take trust to "allow" yourself to go as long as your body takes.

Hilary said...

I like the popcorn analogy! I've been very frustrated lately by all my friends who suddenly think of 38 weeks as when they 'should' be able to have their babies by, and anything past that is just their doctor being mean not letting them induce until 39! I've heard the phrase "Well, anything after 36 weeks is full term," from several different people lately; it baffles me that people have moved up normal birth in their minds that much -- not to mention the disappointment it sets them up for. I tried to explain to someone that if that baby was SUPPOSED to be born at a natural, normal 42 weeks that was right for that baby, than 36 weeks would, in fact, be a full 6 weeks early, but they just looked at me like I was crazy! :-)

sara said...

I was convinced that I would have my baby late- I didn't want to be stressed out about the "due date" like everyone else was. Every time someone asked me when I was due, I'd say "late January, but who knows when really?"

Ironically I did go into labor on my due date and she was born early the next morning. So that was pretty funny to me.

sara said...

The sad part is that the last 3 babies that were born to women in my prenatal classes were c-section. I think at least 2 of them were failed inductions.

Ivy said...

All of my babies came close to their due dates, but a friend of mine was pregnant for 11 months. So was a great aunt of mine. Both had healthy babies.

One had repeated attempts to induce, while the other had her baby at home.

birthamiracle said...

Excellent post, I will be posting the link on my blog! Here's the link to the post I wrote at 39 weeks with my third child, just before I went into labor all on my own for the first time http://birthamiracle.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/thoughts-on-waiting/

Anonymous said...

I am 42 weeks and 3 days along...thank you so much for this post.

Keri said...

great analogy of the popcorn and babies.
We actually use a Stir Crazy popcorn maker and it just quit on us this week. Time to order a new one.
So glad I found your blog from Bellies and Babies. Cant wait to read more! :)
I am a birth doula and photographer in Connecticut and wish we could chit chat face to face! :)

Jeanette said...

I tell my students, labor is an art, not a science... and so is gestation, delivery and breastfeeding.

I am curious as to the background to your statement of the more regular your cycle is, the closer to 40 weeks you'll be.

I may be an exception if this is the norm as I am always 28 days on the dot ever since I started menstruation. My first baby was 41 weeks, 5 days, second baby was 40 weeks exactly and third baby was 42 weeks.

Sweetpea said...

I think they are better named "guess dates", it's just an estimate. I think it would help if more women were in tune with and really educated about their cycles. I have very regular cycles, but they have changed slightly after each pregnancy. Since the usual EDDs are based on a 28 day cycle with ovulation on day 14, it really helps to know your own cycle. I know that when I conceived this baby that I was having 30 day cycles, but I didn't ovulate until date 18. And since I know when I conceived, I base my guess date off of my conception date, not my last menstrual period. I also hardly ever tell people my actual due date, except my midwife, my husband and my mom. I usually give a window, like mid to late July. I get myself so used to saying this that I often forget my actual "due date" myself, and don't get hung up on an actual day. I actually plan on the baby being "late". I got surprised last time because my daughter was a week "early"! She really was, too, you could tell by the way she looked. Anyhow, knowing your own cycle can really really help. I recommend Toni Weschler's Taking Charge of Your Fertility to every woman I know.

Sweetpea said...

One other thing, people seem to think one day over the due date and the baby is in trouble. It's not like the placenta suddenly falls apart! It'll be okay!

HaleeBurch said...

Could you explain the problem with going past 42 weeks, or 39 in most minds. I was talking to my aunt about some of this stuff and I mentioned that (I think you had said Dr. Bradley) had a client who was pregnant for 12 months, and my aunt said that she would be scared to go past 42, that risks go up. But I want to know what risks, and what the likelihood is, and your opinion. Would you induce at 42w plus, or keep waiting for baby to decide?