Due dates are tricky. It’s such a common thread on Pregnancy groups. ‘I’m 40+5 week, my baby is overdue, how do I start labour??’
Due dates are guess work, a guide at best. There are so many variables when calculating a due date that it is just not a reliable number. Yet we completely focus on it and it suddenly becomes an uncomfortable bench mark for us to measure ourselves on. Babies are as individual as we are so expecting all deliveries to happen exactly at 40 weeks is a little unreasonable. In fact, only 4% of UK babies arrive on their due date, with 1 in 5 babies born after 41 weeks!
When you start to crunch the numbers reasons for the variance become clear. Even looking at UK timescales for a term pregnancy, the window naturally varies by 5 weeks as anything from 37 to 42 weeks is considered normal. Across different countries what is considered a ‘normal’ pregnancy length also varies. A baby conceived on the January 6th would be given a due date of September 29th in the UK, October 6th in France and October 20th in Kenya. Each country classes a term baby differently at 40,41 and 43 weeks.
And then there is the assumption that all women have cycles of 28 days and that we ovulate on day 14 of this cycle, so this is when baby was conceived…the plot thickens.
These factors have the potential to create problems as women approach their due date. Well meaning people, who are kind and interested, but by the 15th ‘any signs?’ text the pressure is starting to intensify and the need to get baby out feels more urgent. Even by just classing yourself as ‘overdue’ you are creating the suggestion that baby is late and your body is doing suddenly doing something ‘wrong’ when actually the opposite is true. You have trusted your body to successfully grow a baby and another organ to support that baby; trust your body knows when the right time to birth is. By trying to start labour off early you could even be lengthening your labour time as you’re forcing something that isn’t supposed to happed yet.
All of these worries have the potential to raise our feeling of stress, which will only help baby stay exactly where it is. So, what can you do to manage the pressure of the due date and stay relaxed and focused?
- Do things you enjoy, which relax you in the last few weeks of pregnancy. Plan time with friends, go out for a walk, read, watch films, enjoy a bath anything that helps you wind down. All of this will stimulate the production of oxytocin, helping you feel safe and secure promoting the right conditions for birth to happen.
- What if you ignore due date completely? I suggest to couples to avoid giving out their date and stick to vague numbers. ‘Late September’ gives people an idea, but stops them pinning you down to something they can start nagging you about. You can go about your business, prepare in the best way for you without interference or pressure. BLISS.
- Or tell people your 43 week date and give yourself a buffer. People rarely do the maths and figure out you’ve added a few extra weeks. Your baby will have likely made an appearance by this point and you avoid the hassle of going overdue in everyone’s eyes.
- Redirect all wellbeing text message enquiries to your other half. This way people feel they are being kept in the loop, but you are not dealing the constant reminder that you are running behind an imaginary date.
- This tip also works well when your birth experience starts. Consider who you want to share this information with and communicate via your other half. Neither or you are obligated to answer your phone so if it helps put it on aeroplane mode and ignore it. You are both experiencing a wonderful event, you entitled to ignore the outside world for a bit and concentrate on yourselves.
- Remember your body knows when the time is right to start your birth. Trust your body, trust your instincts and enjoy your last few days of peace before baby arrives. Although the days may feel slightly longer, they won’t last for ever! Reframe your thinking and enjoy some you time before baby makes an appearance.
My advice? Ignore due dates all together. They mean nothing. A baby is never late or overdue. Set yourself up for success by using general terms when planning when your baby will arrive. It makes for an easier journey for you and baby. Nothing is set in stone, get used to just rolling with it. Some ague the best preparation for motherhood there is.