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Early Delivery: Why Is Everyone So Keen on Rushing Baby Out?

By babbleeditors |

With the media and fans breathing down Jessica Simpson’s neck to give birth and calling this the “longest pregnancy ever,” I can’t help but feel bad for her new little girl, who was probably busy putting the finishing touches on herself while the world waited for her arrival. It all makes me wonder, why are we in such a rush to get babies out?

Jessica Simpson isn’t the first woman who’s been harassed about her baby’s due date. It’s a sentiment I started noticing with my last pregnancy. People around me seemed to be impatiently drumming their fingers long before I was due, making well-meaning but anxiety-provoking comments like, “ Woah, any day now. You’re ready to pop!” and “You’re still pregnant?”

This, with four weeks to go. Granted, I did look like I was smuggling a small beach ball, but I was perfectly happy being pregnant and enjoying the last days of my life in a family of three. I felt as though to everyone else, however, I was somehow behind schedule, taking too much time to gestate the little pumpkin I was carrying.

Even my OB was keen to nudge me along. At one of my last check-ups, after measuring my baby and detecting “nice chubby cheeks” by ultrasound, she estimated her birth weight at nine pounds, said hopefully I’d go soon, and started talking induction plans. My due date was still two weeks away.

“When it’s medically required, inducing is a benefit to infant health. But it comes with risks.”

Was my case special? In the last decades, the rate of labor induction has risen significantly in this country, with some doctors offering it up as a standard option. In the CDC’s research, they have found that the rate of induction for both medical and elective cases has more than doubled since 2005. Furthermore, one study in a 2010 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that in a population of nearly 8,000 first-time moms, 44 percent were induced, and of those inductions, 40 percent were elective.

Of course when it’s medically required, inducing is a benefit to infant health. But it comes with risks: The same study found that when labor was induced, women were more than twice as likely to have a C-section than were those with spontaneous labor. When inducing labor early, a woman’s cervix may not be physically ready for delivery, thus increasing the likelihood of a C-section. According to the Mayo Clinic, inducing labor also ups other medical risks, such as infection, a low infant heart rate, umbilical cord problems, and serious bleeding after delivery due to possible shifts of the umbilical cord or the inability of the uterine muscles to properly contract. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists officially recommends against elective induction, especially before 39 weeks.

So what’s the rush? Our impatience with the end of pregnancy may have something to do with a misconception about what, exactly, babies are doing in the womb at that time. You sometimes hear people say that near-term fetuses are done cooking — that they’re just adding weight at the end. But that’s probably not true; brain development keeps a lightning pace through the end of gestation and beyond, and each day can make a difference for organs like the lungs. In fact, although we don’t know exactly what causes labor to begin, the cascade of chemical events that leads to it may be triggered by the fetus itself. In other words, maybe the baby knows best when she’s ready to greet the world.

Perhaps pregnant women and their doctors would be less anxious to induce if the conversation surrounding the end of a pregnancy was changed. Wouldn’t pregnant mamas be better off with a “due period” of two or three weeks instead of one date, to save us from the feeling of being behind schedule? Even I started to get antsy as my day came and went, wondering if by some freak of nature I might be the first woman in history to never actually give birth. But I find myself looking forward to the next stage a lot as a parent — to the end of the newborn period, to the rolling, sitting, talking. It goes by so quickly, though, that I try to keep reminding myself the best place is usually in the moment.

With my first baby, I was induced five days after my due date when his amniotic fluid was getting low. A few years later, with my second child, we let her be and — after two hours of labor, three pushes, and with round apple cheeks — she arrived four days “late.” In other words, perfectly on time. — Heather Turgeon


Heather Turgeon is a psychotherapist and science writer. She authors the weekly “science of kids” column for Babble and is a regular contributor to Strollerderby. Follow the science of kids to keep up with the latest research in child development and parenting.


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0 thoughts on “Early Delivery: Why Is Everyone So Keen on Rushing Baby Out?

  1. Ashley says:

    Informative article! I plan on asking my doc this (and he may have his own preference anyway) – but I will be having a repeat c-section for baby #2. However, I don’t want it to be scheduled at 39 weeks, which seems typical for scheduled c-sections. Can I have a “pre-determined” c-section, but wait until my body goes into labor on its own, whether that be 39 weeks 3 days or 40 weeks 2 days, etc? Is that completely unheard of or has anyone had this experience?

  2. Katie says:

    I’m curious too, Ashley. I will probably end up with a repeat C (failure to progress… happens throughout my family). But I don’t want it scheduled. I want those important hormone rushes that happen during labor.

  3. Amy says:

    I’m about 4 weeks away from my due date and people keep saying that they are surprised to see me come into work in the morning. I don’t feel like I look that huge and it seems early for those comments to me—I can’t imagine what the comments will be if I’m still here in 3 weeks…I am hopeful that the baby stays put so that she can keep growing as she should—I’m perfectly content to wait for her to be ready to come in her own time and am going to do everything in my power to avoid an induction.

  4. TiffanyinSF says:

    @ Ashley – Obviously your doctor will have far better information than I do, but there are two things that come to mind about your question. The first is that they want you to fast before surgery, obviously they can still do it if you’ve eaten, but that comes with some risks that they like to avoid if they can. If you wait until you go into labor, you may be setting yourself up for a higher risk procedure. The second, is that there is generally only one anesthesiologist on staff and he has to stay with you (or whoever else is having a c-section) through the whole surgery. Part of the scheduling process is to help spread people out.
    I have no idea how any of this information will play into your situation, it’s just the things I thought of when I heard your question.

  5. Carol says:

    @Ashley – My doula did precisely that for her “scheduled” c-section for her breech daughter. She waited until her body went into labor naturally and then went in for her c-section.

  6. Christy says:

    This is something I think about a lot. Many of my friends were induced early for no other reason other than they were uncomfortable. It also seems like once women hit 37 weeks, they start hoping to go into labor early. I always found that strange…shouldn’t the baby decide when she’s ready??? My doctor wouldn’t speak of induction unless I was 10-14 days past my due date, and I respected her no nonsense attitude about that. Turns out, I gave birth at exactly 41 weeks and my daughter was 6 lb 10 oz, which was considered underweight for her gestation. I shudder to think of how little she would have been had I delivered any earlier!

  7. Katy says:

    I am 28 weeks along and already getting those “you look like you’re ready to pop!” comments. Women’s bodies handle pregnancy differently, and while I don’t think I’m particularly large (and baby is measuring right on track, thank you very much), it doesn’t do much for my self esteem. I am hoping baby stays in until it’s good and ready to come out and one of my biggest fears is having to be induced. There is already a lot of anxiety for this first time mom, I just wish people would keep their comments (however well-intentioned) to themselves. I’m growing a human being and if I look big it’s because I’m supposed to.

  8. Annette says:

    I am 41 weeks and 1 day today. I was hoping to avoid being induced this time around but if my Doctor offers at my appointment today i think i will accept. i know there are more risks when you induce, but i have a feeling my body is ready it’s just being stubborn!

  9. Samantha says:

    Im 35w 4d pregnant with twins and up untill about a week ago ppl would ALWAYS tell me you are the CUTEST pregnant woman and when I told them I was having Twins they would freak on how small I was.. NOW they are packing on pounds and even though I havnt gained any weight anywhere other then my belly ppl (mostly men) say WOW dont sneeze! or That is a huge belly! and so on…gee thanks? I am having a c secton in two weeks (because I choose to), and even though I choose to not have a vaginal delivery and have a cesarean as soon as possible I still secretly would like to go into labor. with my last pregnancy I had to be induced at 42 weeks and my body was still fighting it..that little boy just DID NOT want to come out!

  10. Rosie says:

    I refuse to tell people my due “date”. There is no such thing, only educated guesses based on the average gestation. I highly doubt my grandmothers or great grandmothers were obsessed over one specific date on a calendar as to when the baby “should” come. Why is telling someone I’m due in the middle of May not good enough? I just don’t understand our culture’s obsession with due dates.

  11. Megan says:

    Interesting article! I’m 37 weeks on Saturday and my entire husbands family is on pins and needles waiting for that magic “I’m in labor” text, while I’m perfectly content waiting until I’m 41 or 42 weeks if this little girl isn’t ready. With my husbands grandma insisting she’ll be born in the next 2 weeks it’s very hard not to get caught up in the excitement and predictions and believe that I’ll deliver soon. But I’m trying to tell myself the baby is running the show and not me.

  12. Emilee says:

    After three inductions (two medical, one non) and serious anxiety about getting those three babies OUT of me toward the end of my pregnancies, I decided to let go of that frustration for my fourth. I set myself up for success by not thinking about having my baby any earlier than 41 weeks. (And I shared that determination with others, telling them a date a week later than my “due date.”) When I went into labor on my own at 38-1/2 weeks, I was actually in denial that it was really happening. It turned out to be my best delivery and easiest recovery.

  13. ariela says:

    I’m 41 weeks today and actually hoping that I have a few more days before going into labor, since I’m currently in the midst of/getting over a fly that arrived when my mom came from overseas almost 2 weeks ago (first she had it, then my husband, and now it’s my turn). All along I thought I would have the baby before the due date but now that I’m a week past, I don’t mind waiting a bit longer until she/he is ready and my body is stronger. I’m having a homebirth so there’s no pressure to induce, I just hope baby comes before my mom has to leave on the 15th of May!

  14. NoraAnn says:

    Hi everyone. Similar to Ashley, I’m about to b on my 3rd C-section. But my biggest concern is that this baby could careless about a schedule date because he seems like he is trying to come early (been having contractions since 28 weeks, now more frequently at 31 weeks). Which makes me nervous that my water will break on its on before any due date or schedule c-section. I do plan on talking to my Dr on Monday for our 2 week check up as far how will the procedure change. Smh.

    Good luck everyone! Never experience induce pregnancy 1st kid late n emergency c-section, 2nd kid schedule c-section n 3rd kid expecting the unexpected.

  15. Deirdre says:

    Thank you for speaking out on this. I ALWAYS carry to 41 or 42 wks. I just have long very healthy gestations. My babies have varied from 7 1/2 to 9 1/2 lbs. The (homebirth) midwife I had with my 1 yr old was planning on letting me go to 43 wks. I have heard that first babies statistically come after the due date and in France first time moms are given the 41 wk pt as a due date. To combat the comments that come with others thinking it is high time that I have this baby, when asked when baby is due I tell them when I expect it to arrive…. a date that is one to two wks after my due date. LOL. I don’t mind being pregnant. It is a fleeting time in our lives. I have been convinced that two things are happening in the phenomenon of babies be forced to come “early”. One…..moms (families) get impatient to see baby ASAP Two…..doctors because the high liability of OB work get nervous. As soon as said baby is term they seem eager to have the baby born and no longer their responsibility to be concerned with. I have noticed lately that doctors seem to be more conservative about inducing moms before 39 wks. than they were when I started having babies in the 90′s. Thus I watch friend after friend be induced at exactly 39 wks. Not me. I take them “late” which is actually the perfect date for me and my babies. My gut tells me that having a baby forced out against a reluctant cervix is not good for mom or baby. My first baby was induced 12 days after my due date and it was a nightmare. It was my fastest delivery, but my worst.

  16. Val Payne says:

    While pregnant with my daughter I went into labor at 29 weeks. We managed to keep her in for four more weeks but I still had a 33 weeker who weighed only 3#9oz. My son was born 11 weeks ago at 38 weeks. I felt unable to celebrate my pregnancy with him because I was waiting for/dreading another early labor, but he hung on until 38 weeks. My point? Even people who knew my history with early labor kept asking if I’d be induced early or some such nonsense. The only people in my life supportive of my desire to let my baby hang out until 42 weeks (if necessary!) were my hub and my doc. I still don’t get why people were adamant about my son being born at 37 weeks – just ’cause it’s considered “full term”.

  17. TB says:

    I am so with you! I just delivered my little boy 1 week late and everyone was in a hurry for him to come except me. The OB insisted I schedule an induction. She reluctantly agreed to let me schedule it for a week and a half past my due date but only because they were upgrading the monitoring system at the hospital. Thankfully he came before that (I only say that because I did not want to induce.). Everyone was worried he be big because I had GD but he was only. Just think he could have been under 6lbs if he came on my “due date.”. Babies one when they are ready.

  18. Ashley Trinkle says:

    I just recently read an article stating that they have found that children that are overdue are twice as likely to end up having behavioral problems such as ADHD. My soon to be 4 year old son was a week overdue and shows all the signs of having ADHD, but his father was just recently diagnosed with ADHD. So I don’t know if its a result of genetics or him being overdue. I know you are considered to be at full term at 39 weeks, I am having to have a repeat C-section in 5 weeks and I’m kinda worried about the baby being fully “cooked”. Even though my first born son was 8 lbs when he was born.

  19. Chanda says:

    I have 3 girls all of whom were induced (my last one at 42 weeks). The biggest issue that I have with the waiting is that I have Braxton Hicks contractions so frequently and regularly that it’s really anxiety inducing towards the end not knowing if I’m in labor (which I never have been on my own) or if I’m just faking. lol I’m absolutely terrified that I’m going to give birth in the car on the way to the hospital because I’m so unaware of myself that I don’t realize I’m in labor until the baby is on his or her way out. I’m planning on having one more child, but the next time I’m definitely going to tell everyone I’m due at least 3 weeks after the date given me by my midwife and I’m never leaving the house without my iPod so that I don’t have to listen to peoples comments about how huge I look. All 3 of my pregnancies were beleaguered with people harassing me about when I was going to have that baby or other similar comments…and that really takes a lot out of you when you’re already uncomfortable and more than a little impatient that the whole process get started.

  20. Darcie says:

    My son came naturally at 38 weeks (1st), so I just expected to go a little bit early with my second, but when I didn’t, my doc scheduled my induction for 39weeks 6days. I was sooo nervous. Considered not even going in to be induced, but I (at the time) had a 2.5 year old and I could barely even care for him I was so uncomfortable, grouchy, emotional… Hubby taking extra time off work wasn’t an option. When they broke my water at 9am and it was brown, I thanked God that I listened to my gut, grew a pair, and went in. What could have been a horrible situation, was avoided, all thanks to a scheduled induction. Although all they did was break my water, I dont consider it an induction. I refused the pitocin and in the end didn’t need it. 4 hrs and one bath later… Lani was here. : )

  21. Sara says:

    I read a study that said that worldwide, first babies with no medical interventions on average come at just over 41 weeks. Babies lose a lot of health benefits when they are induced for convenience. I worked til a week AFTER my due date and my firstborn came two days later. Perfect timing. ;-)

  22. midwesternher says:

    I absolutely agree that there are far too many inductions going on. I am strongly in favor of letting the baby and the momma’s body decide when it is time. All these interventions, starting with the induction, just make for a harder labor on momma and baby.
    My friend was induced at only 3 days past her date. It’s hard not to think that it was for the doctor’s convenience when they made her come in for the induction at midnight. So, by the time she progressed it was a convenient 5:00 pm for the doc to deliver.
    There is so much pressure from doctors to induce. At about 34 weeks, my doctor started the talk with me. They set it up as a way to ‘end your misery’. What you don’t hear often enough, though, is that pitocin makes your labor more intense then it would have been naturally.
    All that, to say- childbirth is a natural, normal process for most women. Especially if we let our bodies do what they are made to do- no matter how long that takes.

  23. Jess says:

    Oh, I really needed this today. I’m at 38 weeks 2 days with #2, and I’ve been hearing “ready to pop” comments for the last 10 weeks, and stories about how second babies come “early and fast” for the last five weeks. The stress of the baby not being here yet had me in tears this morning, and it’s so nice to have a reminder that there’s no need to rush things. Babies tend to come when they’re ready, and when our bodies are ready.

  24. Shelly G says:

    My first went a week past his due date – I ended up being an extremely petite woman (5’1″, 105lbs pre-pregnancy) attempting to vaginally deliver a child that weighed 9lbs 10oz and measured 24 inches. Which was successful after almost three hours of pushing, but with a fairly significant perineal tear. The midwife I was seeing expected him to weigh about two pounds less and later apologized to me. When I got pregnant with my second, my OB said she wouldn’t let it get to that point again – she said putting a woman through that was just cruel.

  25. Kristin says:

    I totally agree with this. With my second, I ended up with two due dates: the one I calculated from my last period start date and the one the OB calculated using the 8-week ultrasound. The OB’s date was one week earlier than mine. All three OBs started talking with me a month ahead of time about induction – were they preparing me to do it their way or something?? The pressure got a lot heavier as the first due date approached. However, I held firm, finally caving to agreeing to set a date after the weekend of “my” due date, if I got that far. Sure enough, the baby arrived ON “my” due date. Thank goodness. What a pain to have to “battle” your own OBs when there’s no medical need – having a baby is such a huge transition all on it’s own without that extra stress.

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