So..........guess who's currently on-call for a baby whose due date came and went? Yeah, that's me. So, I’m pondering right now, thinking about how many people I’ve supported who went way past 40 weeks of pregnancy and the impact it had on them and their experiences.
Let me start off by saying that “late babies” definitely aren’t a problem for me. I have a rough window of being on-call from 38-42 weeks but I know babies don’t do diaries and it’s a guessing game. I'm perfectly happy with the fact that they generally turn up when they feel like it and no-one stayed pregnant forever. It’s actually pretty hard to give you a true idea of how long a pregnancy can last in the UK because the rate of induction has steadily increased so much. Doulas are very patient and good at waiting.
However, other people aren't so cool with it, which is not only a shame but a massive pain in the arse if you happen to be a pregnant person who isn't "delivering the goods" on time for want of a better phrase.
As a society we are so driven by times and dates, for example, just look at online deliveries, you can track your parcel and know sometimes to the hour when it's going to arrive. I literally had a text this morning saying my delivery from the Royal Mail is due on Saturday between 9.27 and 1.27 which strikes me as a very specific window. We like being in control and planning for stuff but these rules don't apply to birth. So, let's back off there a bit, shall we??
First of all, let’s have a look at how estimated due dates (EDD’s) are worked out and why they aren’t always accurate. You’ll notice straightaway the word “estimated” means it’s not a guarantee of your little parcel rocking up on time. But did you know that the formula to work out these dates is based on Naegle’s Rule. Franz Naegele, who was a German obstetrician, died in 1851, yes, he died in the 19th century and we’re firmly in the 21st century here and still using his findings. I’m sure his findings were pretty ground-breaking at the time but his calculations are based on lunar months, cycles of 28 days and ovulation times. Now, as we are all well aware, women are ALL VERY DIFFERENT, we don’t all have regular cycles and can’t fit into a one size fits all pregnancy. You’ll always be asked for the date of your LMP (last menstrual period) when your EDD is calculated, but maybe you forgot or you’re breastfeeding, you have irregular periods or maybe you don’t ovulate on day 14. What I’m getting at is there’s no exact science behind it. It is an estimation and we need to take that into consideration.
I once heard a lovely analogy about pregnancy being like ovens. You could put the exact same cake mixture into two different ovens and the amount of time needed to cook them to perfection could vary considerably because all ovens are different. We are all just ovens.
Unfortunately ,once you have your magic date there’s no ignoring it, try as you might, that date exists and it’s pretty hard not to get fixated on it. If you are lucky enough to be able to dismiss it your friends and family probably aren’t, let the sweepstakes begin………
Some people, cleverly decide early on to be vague about their “date” and I love this idea. You could tell well-meaning friends, colleagues and family members that you’re due at the “end of March” or “around mid-August” or you can just blatantly lie and give a date a few weeks later so people aren’t harassing you when the actual date draws nearer.
By the way, did you know that here in the UK you are considered full-term from 37-42 weeks, that’s a window of 5 weeks (not quite up to the standard of Deliveroo or Amazon) but in France full term goes to week 43. So, in the UK when the “over-due” and “induction” conversations start, try and bear in mind that it’s all just guidelines, measurements and estimations.
I’m not a big fan of people being nudged (or dare I say shoved) into unnecessary inductions and interventions just because of a date. If nothing else, just question your care providers and ask what the risks and benefits are of anything you are being recommended to do. Even having a sweep at a routine midwife appointment is a form of intervention (hmmm, maybe I should write a blog about sweeps???) and you have the right to question the risks involved and decline it if you don’t feel it’s necessary.
Your caregivers are just following protocol because that’s how it’s done, the guidelines are set out by your local trust and not set in stone. What’s right for some may not be right for you. I’m not for a moment suggesting you should go against medical advice here people, far from it. I just want you to ask the right questions, weigh up your choices and make a plan based on YOU and your body. No anyone else’s.
NB When I started writing this piece my client (whom I love so much because she’s so focused and questions everything) was 42+3 and I had the call that afternoon to go to her. Her baby boy was born at home a few hours later. Happy client=happy doula. (Photo shared with permission).
What an amazing story! I was so glad to be a part of it. To find out more about my Doula services, check out my Doula page.