Saturday, February 13, 2010

Due Dates

I read an article once on how 40 week gestation cycles were first figured out.  It seemed very "unscientific" to me when I finished reading the article.  But it confirmed what I already knew - it's like throwing a dart on a target.  If it lands anywhere within the many circles, you have hit the target.  Same is true with birth - there is a built in leeway of 2 weeks on either side of the "due date".  And we all know gestation cycles vary per woman, just as ovulation cycles and menstrual cycles are unique to the mom.

When I was having my own sons three decades ago, we weren't sent through emotional turmoil with several due dates, like moms face today.  Really, what is the first question people ask, "When are you due?"  How do you respond?  Years ago it used to be, "in the spring", now it's April l2th.  But was April l2th calculated by the first day of your last period?  Or was it the 20 week ultrasound?  Or was it the followup 30 week ultrasound? 

Why does this matter?  Because moms facing labor today have enough stresses to worry about - without having to be hung up on a certain day.  Moms who delivered at 38 weeks with their first, use their due date for #2 to say - I could go into labor anywhere from 37 weeks on. And if they reach the 40 week mark, they feel so overdue they can't stand it anymore.  Moms who are worried about induction, use that target date to start stressing over labor not starting as the date approaches.  And of course, if they are stressed, they are suppressing the ability to go into labor also.

So what is the answer?   I have always felt the baby was the only one who really knew the due date - it was their choice - they are designed to know when they are "ready" to come.  In almost 24 years and almost 700 births providing labor support, when moms have been allowed to go to 42 weeks, I have only seen about 3 or 4 inductions.  So I trust that babies just know when they should come.

When someone asks, "When are you due?", what's wrong with saying "mid-April", "early June", etc?  Or even "soon". 

Having said all of this, since I base the amount of births I take by the calender month of the due date, if I ask when are you due, I really do need a "due date" - so pick one you like and let me know, and then we'll leave it up to the baby to pick the right one.