So, you’ve made it to your due date, and still no real signs of labor are presenting. They’re discussing induction now, right? If the answer to that is yes, I presume you must be seeing a medical doctor and not a midwife.
See, midwives don’t induce the way doctors do. I can make hasty presumptions as to why so many OBs are induction happy, but we’ll just stick to the facts today. The fact is, most of us believe that a pregnancy “timeline” begins at our last menstrual period (LMP) and ends at around forty weeks with the magical estimated due date (EDD.) Notice though, nobody ever asks you, “When is your Estimated Due Date?” They just say, “When is your Due Date.”
The History of the 40 Weeks
The idea of 40 weeks is all based around “10 Lunar Months.” Since antiquity, people have known that a pregnancy lasts just under ten moons from a woman’s last menstruation. And just under ten moons is pretty accurate actually. But, in the 1800s an obstetrician named Franz Naegele tried shoving the feminine quality of the moon into the masculine framework of the calendar. There are four weeks in a month… times ten months… forty weeks! Right?
Nature doesn’t go by our calendars. A lunar month is 29.53 days. So, ten lunar months is about 295 days. Contrastingly, 40 calendar weeks (40*7) equals 280 days.
My personal anecdotal evidence to support this idea is that I’ve known many women to give birth in birthing centers or at home, and they’ve all delivered waaaaay past the forty week mark. But my anecdotal evidence shouldn’t mean too much to you, since I just a random woman on the internet.
I’d like to compound my anecdotal evidence with the study of women who were left to their own devices to deliver naturally. In that study, which you can find here, the average number of days from ovulation to delivery for a first time mom was 274 days (Which since ovulation is usually around 14 days from the first day of a woman’s LMP, indicates that science itself suggests an average woman will deliver approximately 288 days from the start of their last period.) This means that science indicates that the average woman’s estimated due date should be just over 41 weeks from the first day of her LMP.
The New Due Date
One thing I see regularly is this: A first time mom will go in to her OB appointment fully aware of her LMP date. From there, the OB looks 280 days into the future and presents a woman with a due date. (Keep in mind, this due date is already up to two weeks earlier than midwives throughout our human history would anticipate, and over a week earlier than modern science anticipates.) Then, a few weeks later, an ultrasound is taken, and the doctor says, “Oh, I think we’re going to have to move this due date up, the baby seems large.” Of course, the mother is pleased, because that means, she gained a full week (or more) of pregnancy progression in two seconds flat. She went into the appointment thinking she had 33 weeks to go, because her last period was seven weeks before, but thanks to modern technology, it was proven that she “must’ve conceived early” and that she only had 32 weeks to go. In reality, she probably still has at least 34 to go, given the lunar calendar to modern calendar conversion and the study of women left to deliver without intervention, and the fact that in the first trimester, an ultrasound’s “measurements” can be up to a week off.
This practice of bumping up the due date arbitrarily based on ultrasound measurements, while terribly exciting for a newly expecting mom, can end up dangerous. For starters, right around her “37 week mark” she is told that if she went into labor, the doctors wouldn’t stop the labor. She’s told 37 weeks is “technically full term enough.” So, then, many new moms go home and start with the natural inducers, so excited to start labor right away… thinking it’s perfectly safe. They try stimulating their nipples, drinking certain tea, and eating insanely spicy foods. They have all sorts of sex and often even try dangerous induction methods like castor oil. Usually, at 37 weeks, these methods won’t work very well, but as the cervix naturally ripens, they often do. And if they don’t by the time 39 weeks comes along, many women are more than happy to have their membranes stripped. By 40 weeks, they’re willing to accept pitocin at the slightest sign of contractions.
When we think of “early labor” we often think of the few hours before contractions become regular. In reality, labor is a long process that takes weeks. Those Braxton Hicks aren’t just sitting there doing nothing. They are strengthening the uterus; preparing it. Early labor starts when those irregular contractions start changing the cervix. This process can and is usually supposed to take weeks. So ,you may start having effective contractions, and then they will fizzle out. The doctors often say your labor “stalled” and are more than willing to offer help getting it back.
Here’s the deal though, pitocin hurts. Pitocin contractions hurt way more than normal contractions. Once pitocin enters the picture, a whole slew of other medical intervention is inherently also introduced. Stripping your membranes often leads to premature breaking of the bag of waters, which then guarantees in most hospitals that you have 48 hours to deliver naturally. This is not the way it’s supposed to be.
Says who? Well, for starters, regardless of what your OB says, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists doesn’t recommend any intervention in a normal pregnancy before 42 weeks have been completed since a woman’s LMP. Maybe more OBs should listen to their own advising board.
What Difference Does it Make?
You hear all the time about babies being born perfectly healthy at 38 and 39 weeks. So what’s the big deal? Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but now that babies are being forced into arriving early on a regular basis, aren’t you also hearing about the plethora of children who are born via c-section because labor wasn’t progressing? Did it ever occur to anyone that maybe labor wasn’t SUPPOSED to progress? We also hear about all of these babies being born who won’t take to nursing, but will suckle a bottle with ease. Doesn’t anyone realize how much easier it is for a baby to suck on a bottle? Nursing involves more muscles. Maybe a couple more weeks developing would allow these babies the strength they need to latch right and suckle with strength.
Just because a baby can live being born a couple, or even a few weeks early, doesn’t mean they should be induced or prodded into birth as soon at their Estimated Due Date shows up on our calendar. It also doesn’t mean there are no consequences to inductions.
A normal, healthy pregnancy will produce a stronger, healthier baby, if the child is simply allowed to gestate naturally.
You see, pregnancy is normal.