Your due date is set at 40 weeks which is, on average, the length of pregnancy. But fewer than 5% of all babies are born on their due dates. And first pregnancies are more likely to edge closer to 41 weeks than subsequent pregnancies. The average for a first time mom is 40 weeks and 4 days–and this is not considered “late.” You are only late or “post-date” once you’ve gone beyond 42 weeks. After 42 weeks the placenta may become unable to adequately support the pregnancy so induction is recommended.
The American College of Obstetricians recommends induction at 42 weeks. (They don’t recommend induction before then because the induction is less likely to be successful if mom’s body is not quite ready to go into labor– in the balance of things, and in the absence of other concerns, waiting until mom’s body and baby are ready to born all on their own is the safest approach.) Most doctors in the US will induce between 41-42 weeks but this is something you would want to discuss with your care-provider as induction is not without risk and/or inconveniences.
Some babies are born before 40 weeks of course—you may spontaneously go into labor at 37, 38 or 39 weeks and still be considered full-term. The window for a full-term spontaneous birth is between 37-42 weeks, with first time moms leaning towards 41 weeks. I think docs should give out a “due month” with a target week around the due date. Then we’re less likely to get hung up on that one day that in all likelihood will come… and go.
The Royal baby watch brings us to something very familiar for many if not all first time mothers: watching, waiting, watching, waiting. The due date seems to be permanently on the horizon.
If I were Kate Middleton’s childbirth educator I’d tell her to ignore THE WORLD and not worry about whether she’s late or on time and rather draw the drapes, lean over some fancy brocade ottoman and watch Springbreakers with Prince William. It helps to block out the noise of impatient friends and relatives (and entire nations of onlookers) when you’re on the cusp of labor—a process that has got a very clever mind of its own.
Ceridwen Morris is a childbirth educator and co-author of From The Hips: A Comprehensive, Open-Minded, Totally Honest, Uncensored Guide to Pregnancy, Birth and Becoming a Parent.
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