Updated: Jun 21, 2019
Did you know that in recent years, ACOG revised their definition of what constitutes a full term pregnancy? While in the past, a baby was considered full term at 37 weeks, the newest research shows the importance of every week of pregnancy for babies’ development. It has been found that the best outcomes occur when the pregnancy lasts closer to 40 weeks.
The current standard is 39 weeks
When talking to friends and noticing the general buzz surrounding late pregnancy, due dates and induction, it's pretty clear that there needs to be more of an effort made to share this information with expectant parents (I'm looking at you medical providers). There’s this very outdated idea that we should almost fear the due date. Babies or mama’s bodies can be labeled as stubborn or lazy if the pregnancy lasts longer and I see a lot of posts and bump pics and speaking in sometimes negative terms about babies who are born closer 40 weeks or beyond.
I get the impatience and the excitement of meeting your baby, I’ve been there myself. Of course it's hard to wait. But as an educator who strives to help women be informed, this makes me a little nervous. Thinking about your due date in this way is potentially harmful for a few reasons: it causes unnecessary stress and anxiety during the final weeks of pregnancy and it may lead to unnecessary inductions, complications and babies being born before they are developmentally ready.
The due date is just an estimation. The average for first time moms is 41 weeks and 1 day
There's nothing wrong with your body or your baby if labor begins a little bit before or after the due date. IT'S NORMAL. Human gestation can have a wide range and can be influenced by a lot of different variables. Not every women ovulates 14 days into her menstrual cycle, embryos implant at different times and not all babies grow at the same rate. To name a few.
Let’s accept that babies don’t care about guidelines.
Let’s throw out the idea that babies are born “on time” or “late” (One of those terms has a very obvious positive association while the other label is usually seen in a negative way).
Let's let babies decide when they are done growing and developing.
Let's stop making women afraid that their baby will become "too big" if they don't induce.
Instead of saying overdue, maybe we could say you are still cooking?
For all you well-meaning family members out there. Can you pretty please stop calling and asking again and again when the baby is coming or if so and so is still pregnant? If you need to call, I'm sure your loved one would like to hear they are doing a great job growing and protecting the baby. Better yet, call and offer a massage and some tacos. Always tacos.
I hope that this updated information can start to become more widely known so pregnant women can feel less stress and anxiety surrounding their due dates. The last weeks of pregnancy are hard enough without a deadline hanging over your head. Yes some babies will still be born before the due date for different reasons. Some babies are simply ready earlier and sometimes induction is a good choice if a real concern arises. But there's also a great chance that if there's less pressure for babies to be born "on time" the rate of unnecessary inductions and resulting complications will decrease as well.
Unless there is a clear medical reason, the evidence shows that it's best to wait for labor to begin on it's own. Don't fear your due date, celebrate your body for the important job it is doing and trust that your baby will come when they are ready.