I have now reached 40 weeks pregnant. My due date has been and gone. There is still no baby and my bump is as huge as ever. But, despite all of this, I don’t consider myself “overdue”.
When I was pregnant with Frog I remember looking at her due date much as one would look at a deadline. To me, that date marked the end of my pregnancy and the beginning of motherhood. The idea that my baby may have other ideas didn’t even cross my mind.
In the end, my daughter came into the world twelve days after she was “due”. She was perfect, weighing only 6lb 14oz, with pink skin and a tiny smattering of hair. There was nothing about her to indicate she was twelve days “late”. Her skin wasn’t all wrinkled and she wasn’t scarily big. Looking back, I now know she simply wasn’t ready to be born at 40 weeks.
And the same is true of this baby. Having given birth to a “late” baby once before and being a bit more clued up this time around, I’m well aware that babies don’t stick to a schedule. I’m also well aware that not all women carry their baby in the same way. As legendary midwife Ina May Gaskin puts it, some women need longer to cook a baby – and it’s not a race anyway.
This knowledge partly contributed to my earlier decision not to make my due date public. After all, if I was happy to ignore the calendar I didn’t want other people putting the sweats on me instead. The last week of my pregnancy with Frog was full of, “Eat a hot curry” advice and I was constantly asked, “Haven’t you had that baby yet?!” by people I barely knew. It made me feel like I’d somehow failed to perform. In my tender, vulnerable, hormonal state it wasn’t what I needed to hear.
The benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing. I now know that spending time Googling “overdue baby” and reading countless pregnancy forums is not good for a heavily pregnant paranoid woman’s mental health. It seems to me that everywhere you turn in this country there’s an idea that a pregnancy lasting beyond 40 weeks is abnormal. Each day past the due date is ticked off with a “I’m XX late now”, as if it’s a bus people are waiting for and not a baby.
A little research tells me this idea of all pregnancies lasting bang on 40 weeks is a fairly modern phenomenon. The date is based on a 28 weekly cycle (a cycle that not all women share, by the way) and a scan at 12 weeks. But, crucially, it’s an estimated date. And, as the brilliant blogger and inspirational midwife Clemmie from Gas and Air told me once, less than five percent of babies actually arrive on their due date anyway. So, that’s a whopping 95% of women who DON’T give birth on their due date. You would have thought, then, that the notion of going beyond 40 weeks wouldn’t be such a big deal to some people.
A pregnancy is considered “full term” anywhere from 37 weeks to 42 weeks in the UK. In France, your due date is calculated at 41 weeks. In some countries you don’t even get a due date, but a “due month” instead. It’s not as if women are built differently in different countries, so it seems to me that this whole due date thing isn’t an exact science. And you know what? I’m not entirely sure having a fixed date is helpful anyway.
I can completely understand a woman’s eagerness to give birth once she reaches the end of her pregnancy. If I’m honest, I’m ready to give birth now too. There’s the excitement of meeting your baby and, if you’ve had a difficult pregnancy or are uncomfortable, then you just want to stop being pregnant. But, for me, the idea of hurrying along this baby before it’s ready feels like a betrayal of trust in my body. I’m trusting my body to be able to give birth, so I need to trust it to give birth when the time is right – not when it fits the correct date on a calendar.
Where I live in the UK you are closely monitored if you go beyond ten days past your due date. My midwife tells me they don’t like to let mums go over fourteen days, so if it got to that stage I’d be strongly encouraged to have an induction to start my labour. I’m not one to go against medical advice and, hopefully, it won’t come to that anyway, but I can’t help but feel this is a bit of a “one size fits all” approach. Surely if the monitoring showed mum and baby were fine, there shouldn’t be a rush to begin an induction? Induction is a pretty big deal after all – all the evidence shows that once you start a labour artificially there is more chance of needing further interventions as the labour progresses.
Again, Ina May Gaskin points to the fact that many of the babies she has delivered were to Amish women in America, who often carried to 43 weeks. And, in fact, the research into letting pregnancies go beyond 42 weeks is a little hazy anyway, because so few women go beyond this date.
As I said, I’m hoping to avoid an induction and have my fingers crossed that, like his or her older sister, this baby will make an appearance before I have to face being induced. And, in the meantime, I’m going to continue to waddle around, doing bits of yoga and listening to meditation CDs while eating chocolate and taking naps. There are some plus sides to going beyond 40 weeks you know.
A couple of years later and here I am reading your article which just about saved my sanity today. I’m 40.5 weeks and sadly each day matters. The pressure to fit within the due date timeline is immense and so very unscientific. My biggest fear is the clinical nature of modern day pregnancy and labour, something I gave very little thought to before becoming pregnant but something that deeply troubled me now.
I absolutely know the feeling. My best piece of advice is to try to let some of the “advice” etc wash over you if you can. It’s hard though, I know.
Nicola Noo says
as a mum who only made it to 33 weeks with her little man….. I can only say…. babys come when they are meant to ….. although mine was very tiny at 33 weeks…. he was perfectly fine….. which again is most definately not the norm!! The more tense we get as the world tells us we need to perform on a certain date… the harder it is for our body to relax and allow birth to flow anyway…….. I have heard stories of people even making it to 44 weeks and everything being perfectly fine…. the hardest thing is most definately…. listening to your own gut feeling when the world around.. especially the medical world… is screaming something different in your ear….. Second time around….. I know if I made it that far…… I would trust with all my heart… that baby knows and avoid interference but obvisouly accept monitoring… for as long as I need to…. So GO YOU Molly…. seems like you are fully in YOUR flow…. and thats THE Best thing that ANY expectant mum could ask for at this stage…. TRUST YOUR BODY!! It knows just what to do…. sending much love….xxxxxxx
Thank you Nicola – your advice is spot on. I’m definitely more confident this time to trust my body in a way that I didn’t last time. I suppose having been there before helps. Plus, I’m more clued up after reading about it and knowing more pregnant women! x
Hannah Budding Smiles says
I didn’t reach my due date (by one day) but then I was on a 28 day cycle and at 7lb9oz, Toby was clearly ready and fully cooked! It does bug me that you’re kind of forced into medical procedures if the baby doesn’t come in some generic time frame. I hope your baby comes safe and sound when it’s ready and that you have a lovely birth xx
Adele @ Circus Queen says
It sounds like you are confident and very clued up! This is much what I thought when I had Ophelia, after Talitha being 13 days “overdue”. I hope you enjoy this last bit of pregnancy, regardless of when your baby arrives.
all 3 of mine were overdue, and they got later & later..but they definitely come when they’re good & ready. Jack came (quickly) on the morning I was due to be induced. Just enjoy these last few hours/days being a family of 3 before the chaos begins all over again!
Good luck with the birth, I hope it’s a smooth delivery xx
Baby Yo was “10 days late” and I got made to feel incredibly stressed by the midwifery staff as well as friends and family.. i got fed up of all the comments as well meaning as they were meant to be! We didn’t need to be induced, as she arrived in her own time..fashionably late 😉
I think the pressure at the very end doesn’t help does it? The last thing you need is to feel like you’re being watched or are against the clock – just makes you feel stressed and that’s not the best mindset to be in if you want to go into labour naturally anyway! x
Colette B says
My first born was one of those rare babies who actually put in an appearance on their due date – having gone into labour the day before, failure to progress ended in an emergency section.
My subsequent pregnancies ended almost a week early due to the fact we couldn’t actually trust my body to do it’s job – back to back babies, high bp, gestational diabetes and SPD led to a failed induction and emcs with one and a planned cs with the other.
I wish I had been able to trust my body to do its thing – but it doesn’t work, my babies won’t come out they way they are meant to unfortunately.
I hope the end of your pregnancy is relaxed and intervention free x
Thanks Colette – and you’re right, we are all so different. Every pregnancy is different and that’s why I’m not a fan of this one size fits all approach. In your case induction was obviously the right way to go, but I’m not convinced it is in every single case – just because a baby hasn’t met a deadline! x
I hate due dates and the terms ‘overdue’ too. My eldest was induced at 14 days past my EDD and when they examined me they told me I was nowhere near ready to deliver. They expected me to be there at least a week! However I truly believe that she was ready to come and after just one dose of the gel I was quickly in established labour. She too was tiny and not wrinkly at all. The fact that she was born by emcs I believe is due to the intense nature of the contractions as they’d been artificially started. Luka was a natural labour at 41+4 and that’s why I know my body is just not made for short pregnancies! Up until the issues we’ve been having I’ve been expecting to be here until the end of November, 42 weeks or more as that is how my body seems to work. To have a date set now at 37 weeks is actually 5 weeks too early for me. I do think things are changing though, as it is now 39 weeks which is classed as term rather than 37, so a pregnancy lasting up to 42/3 weeks is not quite so strange as it maybe once was!
x x x
It’s so interesting to hear from other women on this. And I think it’s a good thing if attitudes to the whole 40 week pregnancy thing are changing. I got so sick of feeling like I’d missed a deadline when I was pregnant with F that I’m determined not to let that mindset creep in this time around. x
Amy Ransom says
Couldn’t agree more. I avoided telling people a date too. But from 37 weeks people were saying ‘haven’t you had that baby yet?’ And I was like ‘I’M NOT DUE YET!’ A friend was late with all 3 and on her third even went over the 42 week mark because she knew they had her dates wrong and lo and behold the baby turned up a couple of days later, safe and well. It does take people different times to make a baby as you say.
And anyway. You look bloomin fabulous x
Thank you! And yes – I’ve had the same since 37 weeks too. Glad it’s not just me! x
My first two came on their due dates, freaky I know.Their younger sister was 3 days early.Whilst pregnant with my third I watched a series about home births, where one woman went 17 days past her due date.I think as long as you and bubs are healthy, there should be no reason to help things along.From what I’ve heard from inductions, things move along too quickly, the mother and baby become stressed and a c-section is called for.enjoy your time being a family of three for a little bit longer.
Thanks Aly, I intend to! Your experience just goes to show how different all our bodies are. The idea that we all take exactly the same amount of time to make a baby just doesn’t make sense does it? And yes, that’s why I’d like to avoid induction if possible – I genuinely feel like this baby will come when he or she is ready. Hopefully I’ll be proved right!
I was 10 days over my predicted date. Acupuncture worked for me. There was no way I was going to be induced.
I’ve heard acupuncture and reflexology are both great natural ways to start a labour. If it comes down to it I’d far rather go that route than have a hospital induction. (PS. You’re on my “people to text first when baby comes” list, obvs.)
Yes it’s scary that they insist on inducing you after 14 days ‘overdue’ when it might just be that baby isn’t ready yet! I was terrified of this, and they do put the pressure on to induce when it’s not what you really want. (I was 8 days, then 9 days ‘overdue’ and in each pregnancy they started talking about inducing me before I even reached the d-date. It put me in a right old flap and made me very, very stressed I can tell you! Good luck Molly x
Seriously? They started talking induction before you’d even got to your due date? What was the rush?! Doesn’t sound like the way to make a heavily pregnant woman relaxed – which is what you need to be to give your body the best chance of going into labour! x
Hear hear! I’ve gone passed 40 weeks with all three and the first time that two week waiting from due date to induction was not good, I felt like such a cracking failure and that my body was letting me down yet again. The second and third times I wanted to deliver and I had acupuncture to help get things moving mainly because I wanted to avoid induction if at all possible, and because for me it’s when the fear starts to creep back in again, but I wasn’t as gutted as I was the first time. Given the size of my children I’m very glad no one hung on until 43 weeks though!
I must admit – the thought of going to 43 weeks doesn’t appeal to me either! Hoping this one will make a timely appearance before I have to make any decisions about an induction. F arrived within her two day “deadline” so I have everything crossed this bub won’t make me wait too long either. It just goes to show how different women don’t all carry the same. Another acupuncture tip too – I’d definitely rather acupuncture than being induced at hospital!
Emma Skullmadmama says
I completely agree, I was 10 days past the ‘Due Date’ with my first (girl) who only weighed 7lb 3 and 12 days with my son, who weighed a healthy 8lb11. I actually went into labour at 5am on the morning of my induction day which I was so glad about and I really didn’t want to be induced and that would have been only 12 days past. I definitely think that all dates are estimates and due dates shouldn’t really exist, like you say everyone has different length cycles and the scary part is when they work out your weeks from your last period and scare new parents at scans into thinking there baby is smaller or larger than the weeks they believe they are and it all turns out normal in the end!! Have a wonderful labour and you sound like you’ve got it all under control x
Thank you! And how clever was your baby to come on the morning of the induction?! It’s like baby knew you didn’t want to be induced! x