Are due dates a fallacy?
1 in 5 births in the UK are induced by one means or another https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/induction-labour/. Roughly 30% of those inductions take place because of a medical or obstetric reason. The remaining take place because of your dates.
In the UK at 37 weeks, your pregnancy is considered full-term. Most women will go into labour between 38 and 42 weeks of pregnancy.
What are due dates?
The current method used to calculate due date is based on a formula called Naegele’s rule, named after Franz Karl Naegele (1778–1851), the German obstetrician who devised the rule.
This takes the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP) and adds 280 days to it.
How can they differ?
As we already know, our cycle lengths are all different, so if you have a longer cycle than average, you are likely to ovulate, and therefore conceive, later in the cycle. But this is rarely taken into account when you are given your due date. In fact, in a recent study among natural conceptions where the date of ovulation was known, the variation in pregnancy length (even after excluding preterm and complications), was 37 days. That is a huge variation in length and shows that it is absolutely ‘normal’ to have a longer pregnancy.
Once you’ve had the 12 week scan the ‘due date’ becomes firmly etched in your mind, you can’t wait to tell friends, family & work. You then start planning around the due date, thinking about what you can do once the baby is born, planning some visits from family, it’s such a wonderful and exciting time. So much emphasis is put on this date. It is believed that only 4% of babies are born on their due date.
Due dates bring pressure
Pressure from where?
As your pregnancy moves closer towards this date, pressure can increase from all directions.
From yourself; you may feel more and more excitement as your due date approaches but if the date comes and goes you may start to feel anxious or disappointed. Where’s my baby? Is there something wrong? This stress can release adrenaline which you don’t want.
From family and friends; as the date approaches and passes you may start to receive more and more messages from friends and family. ‘Any sign of baby yet?’, ‘bet you’re fed up now’, ‘have you tried……..?’. They all come from a loving place but they are not helpful to you.
From caregivers; from midwives & consultants. They may start talking about risk.
How to manage the pressure?
There are ways to manage this pressure. You could view each day that passes as an extra day where you can get more sleep, you could go out for a meal, watch a film & enjoy the extra time. If you are preparing for birth through hypnobirthing you can use visualisations, deep relaxation techniques, breathing and self-hypnosis to remain in the positive mindset. You could mention to family and friends that you’ve had an additional dating scan and the dates have changed.
What to do?
If only we could let go of the ‘due date’ in our nation’s approach to birth and look at it more as a ‘birth window’. There is no such thing as a late baby, only different lengths of pregnancy. And it would be strange if it were otherwise. Poor babies to be labelled ‘late’ before they have even arrived.
The only person who knows your due date is your baby.
Proud creator of Inspired Birth, Hypnobirthing, Leeds, Harrogate & York