On October 20, 2014, Kensington Palace released an official statement regarding the next royal baby and his or her expected due date:
“Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are delighted to confirm they are expecting a baby in April 2015.”
The theme of the “due month” has continued throughout Kate Middleton’s pregnancy, which has given public interest to the “trend.”
People love to hate celebrity news, but being in the public eye does allow for people to use the platform (whether knowingly or not) to promote a new outlook on various identifiable parts of life. Women who become pregnant in the West are expected to give an exact due date when asked. These type of questions posed by polite strangers are usually just a pleasantry but it has unfortunately perpetuated misinformation in our country. Mainly, that a woman is expected to give birth on or very close to her due date.
Here are some reasons why due dates can be problematic:
1. Your due date is calculated by counting backward from your last known period to find the gestational age of your child.
If a woman has irregular periods or even ovulates on a schedule outside the norm, the gestational age of the fetus may be incorrect.
2. Most women do not give birth right at 40 weeks.
When your due date is calculated it gives you a due date of exactly 40 weeks. The problem with this (aside from what is mentioned in #1) is that most women don’t deliver at 40 weeks. It depends on many factors, including how many pregnancies the woman has had. First pregnancies tend to last longer (around 41 weeks) and women who had had previous pregnancies generally have about a week less gestation time than with their previous, first full-term pregnancy. Of course, this is all speaking on averages and the truth is that many of us will fall out of this average range. You are unlikely to go past 42 weeks, but that isn’t to say it is rare or a cause for alarm…especially since due date calculations can be off by weeks.
3. Unnecessary inductions (which often end with unnecessary c-sections).
This due date myth can cause a chain of unnecessary medical interventions to occur. Recent ACOG guidelines urge physicians not to induce labor prior to 39 weeks gestation unless medically necessary. Our culture has a problem with wanting things on our own schedule, when it’s convenient for us, and this has helped lead to many pregnancies being induced too early simply for the mother’s convenience. It isn’t that a woman shouldn’t be kept under close watch by medical professionals, but to overly treat women because they believe that since labor hasn’t started on its own it may never happen just doesn’t make sense when taking into account all that can go wrong when calculating this date. What you do have to worry about is a truly post-term placenta will begin to deteriorate, causing problems for the baby (and mother). The truth is that nature is not perfect but a combination of conservative medical interventions (used when absolutely needed) and a respect for the human body during pregnancy will help keep babies and mothers healthy (physically and emotionally) and safe. Having a doctor that understands the common miscalculations of gestation (fetal) age while also looking for the signs and symptoms of a post-term fetus and mother is the best approach for all. Side note: Preeclampsia experts tell us that if every woman would develop preeclampsia if she stays pregnant long enough, so there are definite risks that come with an aging placenta (or a prematurely aging placenta). What we should also understand that the majority of women can labor and deliver a baby vaginally without major medical intervention. The experts are there to help those of us in the minority survive…because, like we said, nature is not perfect, it only has to be “good enough.”
This is why so many pregnancy experts are urging the medical community and lay people to seriously consider implementing a “due month” rather than a “due date.” This relieves the pressure that comes with waiting for a specific date to come, and more often than not, go, without going into labor. Women will be less likely to present anxieties and desires about being induced past a certain date. And most importantly, this will keep medical professionals more cautious with their own monitoring and interventions if they are keeping in mind a wider gestational age range.