Are you STILL pregnant?
Having my first baby over Christmas and New Year meant that I had to see people, repeatedly whilst I was in those final weeks of waiting. My first born was ‘due” on December 29 but in fact, I was 41 weeks gestation which he was born on January 6. However the response of well-meaning people around me made me feel as if something was wrong when, in fact, the length of my pregnancy, the gestational period, was normal. Normal pregnancy length is anywhere from 38 weeks to 42 weeks. And especially when it is your first baby those days after that due date drag and drag. So whilst there are some reasons to actively shorten a pregnancy by ‘inducing’ labour, where mother or baby’s health may be in danger. But unfortunately rates of induction are getting higher and higher and part of the reason for this is because of those responses I experienced myself. The well-meaning onlookers stressing the mum-to-be into a frenzied state that the baby needs to come.
The average first time mum will not have a baby on their ‘due date’ – most will labour with their first baby somewhere between 5 and 7 days past that elusive date. As a midwife I often suggest to women that they add a week on to their ‘due date’ when talking to others to avoid the pressure. Unfortunately to this most first time mothers to be say “I won’t need to, I know I am going to be early”……This is a very very, almost universal myth. If I had a dollar for every first timer that has told me this, who in fact has gone past that date only to look at me through weeping eyes and say I REALLY thought I would be early, then I would be a very rich woman. In reality very few first timers do go early.
The invent of ultrasounds and the incorporation of their use into routine practice has meant that most women have a good idea of these dates but there is still a range of 4 days either side of that date which is a margin of error. But this is still an average calculation – it does not take into consideration individual variances. Therefore again, we go back to the fact that normal, especially with your first baby, can be any time between 38 and 42 weeks. Once you have had your first baby, you will have more of an idea of what your body ‘does’ in terms of labour and birth.
In our world of immediate gratification waiting for baby can be a very difficult for many people. And many more have anxiety or are worried about aspects of their own or their baby’s wellbeing. Having a care provider that supports your choices, monitors closely your own and your baby’s wellbeing and is neither overly laid back nor highly anxiety provoking is important. Trusting normal bodily processes can be hard, but generally in the absence of problems, is best.
Toward the end of the period before my babe was born I started to say “yes, I am still pregnant, I must have a strong pelvic floor” and “yes, I am big, my uterus is obviously overly large” which if nothing else ensured an awkward end to the conversation. It is important to get be educated, be patient and, if necessary to be strong. It is always your baby and your body.