If only we could let go of the “due date” in our nation’s approach to birth and look at it more as a “birth window”. In my vocabulary there is no such thing as a late baby; only women who have different lengths of pregnancy. And it would be strange if it were otherwise. During pregnancy, you will be given a date and you are told that this is the expected date you will become a parent. You will most likely be tempted to latch onto this date, plan around it with the distinct feeling that your birth has been “booked”.
It would be very convenient if such was the case, it would also be a lot easier for maternity wards and doulas to plan for your birth. Instead, this is another area where medical professionals can inadvertently treat their approach to the birth experience as like a medical intervention. As any midwife or doula can tell you, no two births are alike and the foundation of the “due date” is a shaky one to begin with. This date is not even an average. Apparently 85% of babies arrive so-called ‘late’, and first pregnancies tend to be about 41 ½ weeks.
How Does The NHS Work Out Your Due Date?
The NHS due date is calculated by Naegele’s Rule, which was first conceived in 1830. It is based on the cycles of the moon and the rule estimates the expected date of delivery from the first day of the woman’s last period by adding 1 year, subtracting three months and adding seven days to that date. This is a preferred method of calculating the due window as it doesn’t require knowledge of the woman’s ovulation cycle or the overall length of her menstrual rhythm. These are both important elements when accurately predicting the correct time when a baby will be born, so it gives an indication as to how inaccurate this measurement is. These days the 12 week scan is taken as the most accurate estimate of when your baby might decide to put in an appearance. The trouble is that no-one has told the baby this.
France recently added an additional week to their official birth recommendations, increasing a typical French pregnancy to 41 weeks. The World Health Organization says that an average pregnancy is anything from 37 to 42 weeks, and a perfectly normal pregnancy can be outside this window as well.
No Such Thing as Late: Baby Knows Best
Hypnobirthing can help you find a calm and confident state of mind if you want to collect yourself rather than behaving in a reactive way. Remember that children don’t grow at the same rate once they leave the womb, so why assume the opposite would be true during pregnancy? As we often say: Baby knows best in this case, and (excepting for cases where medical intervention is recommended) it’s best to leave well enough alone. Monitoring can ensure that your infant is still comfortable and that the placenta is still working efficiently, reducing the need for induction. It’s easy to put yourself under stress, perhaps most of all because you’re eager to meet your baby, but this is a natural process that resists being simplified to “done at 40 weeks”. Read below for some pleasant distractions.
Some ideas for these extra moments before the birth of your child
- Have a long lie in, just because you still can.
- See a film at the cinema or at home with your partner.
- Treat yourself to a pampering session. This can be going out for a haircut or just pampering yourself at home.
- Have your favourite meal as a treat.
- Go on a date with your partner or arrange a meeting with your friend.
- It’s good to arrange things. Needing to cancel an appointment due to going into labour is an excuse that no one will quibble over.
- Better still, just sit with your feet up under a tree, reading a book, and chill.
If your pregnancy is longer than 40 weeks, regard it as a bonus. You have been given a few more days when you can have a lie-in, read a book whenever you like, go to the cinema or have a meal at a restaurant with your partner at a whim. These are all things you will not be able to do without a great deal of organization for many years to come. So make the most of them, and enjoy this extra holiday.
We have another great article here about ‘Due Dates are a Fallacy’