I don’t think pregnant women should be told they could give birth any time from 37 weeks pregnant to 41 weeks pregnant. It creates this expectation from 37 weeks that labour could begin any time. By the time you get to your due date at 40 weeks you’ve been in a state of expectation for three weeks and you don’t want to wait any longer. Well at least, that’s how I’m feeling!
The reality is that most first pregnancies don’t happen early (before the due date). And they do tell you this, but you hope to be early anyway. They’ve given you a four to five week window and the due date isn’t right in the middle, so you’d think your chances of being early are greater.
But I’ve discovered that this expectation in the pregnant mother’s mind doesn’t just come from medical professionals. It’s from other people around you too. It’s like everyone is expecting that you’ll give birth before or on your due date because as that date gets closer people remark on the fact that you’re still pregnant.
Now that I’ve gone over my due date (by only one day mind you!) I feel like I’m disappointing people when I turn up to events, or pick up the phone, or respond to a text message. I understand this. I’m disappointed too that I haven’t gone into labour yet. But this started before I even reached my due date.
I think it’s probably more likely that my family and friends are just excited about the impending birth and any sign that it’s happening (e.g. I don’t answer my phone). Perhaps they don’t remember exactly when I’m due but they know I’m really pregnant and it could happen any time!
I didn’t think I’d get to my due date, I thought the baby would come early. But I find myself here, still waiting and wondering why I expected this when I was told that first pregnancies are usually late. Why did I think I would be one of the minority?
Maybe it’s the words “due date”. For everything else in life a due date is the last date possible. The milk has a due date and you usually wouldn’t drink it after that date has passed! But it seems that a pregnancy due date (technically called “Expected Date of Delivery”) is just a ball-park date. Babies can’t be relied upon to be on time! I knew this, which is why I wasn’t too worried about having February 29th as our due date. But there’s still something disappointing about going “overdue”.
So I was thinking that maybe doctors should change the way they talk about when a baby could be born. They should tell you that it’s fine if the baby is born at 37 weeks, they’re developed enough to thrive. But calling this “full term” invites expectation and disappointment for too long.
I don’t think I’m going to change the way medical staff talk to pregnant women just because of my disappointments! I write this in the hope that I can help other pregnant women handle their expectations, and that I can remember to be sensitive to those who may in future go over their due date in pregnancy. The baby will come when the baby is ready and that’s probably for the best.