Over the past couple of years, we’ve had a major baby boom among my friends. I know, it’s common — people in their mid-20s to early 30s frequently have babies! We’ve had ‘waves’ of babies, actually, with many of us delivering our third sometime this year, and several more having their second.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the majority of these women were induced for labor. And some of them definitely needed it, for various medical reasons. But the most common reason for induction? Reaching or quickly approaching their due date.
It is so important to remember: the due date is not a ‘best-before’ date!
Yes, I understand that some women need to be induced for medical reasons. And yes, I know that some simply prefer to be induced for their own reasons. The problem, however, is that a lot of doctors freak women out and make them think that pregnancy that goes beyond 40 weeks isn’t normal or healthy (even if there are no signs of complications) and so they ‘require’ an induction, just for reaching their due date!
Normal pregnancies are anywhere from 37 to 42 weeks. There are stories of women having healthy babies at 36 weeks…and as long as 52 weeks! Granted, carrying a pregnancy longer than 42 weeks is incredibly rare, but it does happen. These babies are usually born healthy, as long as the mom and baby aren’t showing any signs of distress. People are so individual, and the length of ‘required’ gestation varies widely, too.
Some babies I read about were born (to a particular mom; there were four or five babies over time) usually at 44 – 46 weeks. And upon examining them as newborns, they appeared to be roughly the same as an average 39-week baby. None exceeded 8 lbs. Can you imagine what would have happened if they’d been induced at 39 or even 42 weeks? They would have been premature, even though they had reached the “alloted” time!
Doctors are finding more and more that babies born early — even what they call ‘late premature,’ from 35 to 39 weeks — are having more trouble than babies born past 39 weeks. Even babies born at 37 or 38 weeks are at increased risk of learning disabilities and other complications! Now, some babies are naturally born at this time and that’s fine. But fewer would be if they weren’t induced.
It’s also true that up to half of all pregnancies each year aren’t planned. That means some women may not find out until they are 7 or 8 weeks along — maybe even further. Their due dates, therefore, are just estimates based on last menstrual period (if they remember!) and possibly early ultrasound dating. Not all women have early ultrasounds though; some only have one at 20 weeks. At that point dates are less accurate. The due date could easily be off by a couple of weeks, and those weeks can really matter at the end of pregnancy.
The end of pregnancy is uncomfortable. I know — I’m 31 weeks now and already kind of uncomfortable! But pregnancy is just temporary. In a couple months my baby will be here and then it won’t matter how I felt for those last several weeks. I know that everyday can seem like endless agony sometimes. I still remember the last 3 or 4 days I was pregnant with my son and how crazy I felt, in pre-labor the whole time. The end of pregnancy does funny things to your mind, and once you know you’re in the “safe” zone, you just want that baby out. I know.
But, barring actual medical issues (or, if you must, personal preference), don’t rush that baby anywhere! Relax, wait. Your baby will come when s/he is ready. If anything started to go wrong — such as, if you truly had low fluid or your placenta was deteriorating — then it’s likely your body would go into labor on its own anyway. Your body, in the vast majority of cases, will not hold onto your baby if it is not able to care for it anymore!
Trust your body. Trust your baby. The ‘average’ baby would be born at 41 weeks, if left alone — so that should tell us something about due dates! Pregnancy will end, and everything will be fine. (As always, if something doesn’t seem right — call your doctor!)
What do you think? Are women pushed into unnecessary inductions because the due date is seen as the ‘best before’ date?