The Due Month

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One of the first questions many pregnant women hear is, “What’s your due date?” And at the end of term, one of the most frequently asked questions is, “You’re still pregnant?”

Many people view the due date as a precise expectation of when the little one will make his appearance, as if he has a notification set to wake him and move him out on his expected arrival date. However, according to the American Pregnancy Association, only an estimated five percent of women actually deliver their babies on their due dates.

The Due Month

Due dates are typically calculated by counting 40 weeks from the first day of the woman’s last period, if she has regular cycles. “We call it the EDC or estimated date of confinement,” said Kristin Vincent, midwife at Saint Joseph OB/GYN Specialists and Midwifery. “It’s an estimate based on the first day of your last period and a lot of women don’t know when that is. Plus, that date doesn’t tell you when you ovulate. Everyone ovulates differently.”

Not only is the calculation not precise, the factors that bring about labor are still not fully understood either. “So many mom and baby factors go into the start of labor,” said Kristin, who has practiced midwifery for 14 years. “If we knew how to make labor happen, I’d write a book.”

In a world of demands and schedules and deadlines, parents want to know when a baby will arrive. After all, it is much easier to plan that way. Unfortunately babies don’t adhere to schedules (just wait until the middle-of-the-night feedings). So, what are expectant parents to do when anticipating their little one’s arrival? Try these tips:

Adopt the due month.

A baby is considered term when she is born between 37 and 42 weeks of gestation. That means a baby could arrive three weeks “early” or “late” and still be right on time. Given that amount of time, a due month is a more appropriate way to expect when a baby will be born.

Consider previous births.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, first-time mothers who experience spontaneous, or a natural start to labor, tend to average 41 weeks and one day, while women who have had babies average 40 weeks and three days. So, a first time mother should anticipate being pregnant for longer than the estimated 40 weeks.

Look at family history.

If a mom-to-be wants to know when the baby will decide to vacate, she should ask her own mother when she delivered her babies. Family history can sometimes point to whether a baby will arrive early, late or right on time. As Kristin said, “Gestational length can be determined by heredity. Some families deliver around the same gestational date.”

Understand what’s happening.

“A lot of brain development is happening at the end of pregnancy,” Kristin said. “You want to give them the best shot you can, so don’t force them out for no reason. Sometimes a baby has to come out for medical reasons, but if not, let them stay to develop more and make it all the better.”

Have a party.

Kristin tells her patients to have a party on the baby’s due date and ask people to bring freezer meals for after the birth. “People have everything ready and all they are doing is waiting and it feels like forever.” The party planning will give the expectant parents something else to focus on.

Be patient.

While this may be easier said than done, the only thing a parent-to-be can do is be patient. This is perhaps one of their first lessons in parenting, and patience will be a necessity when it comes to child rearing. “Pregnancy is about patience,” Kristin said. “At the end, you’re just over it and ready to have the baby. I call it the Tired of Being Pregnant Syndrome. It’s guaranteed that you will have that diagnosis, but it’s not a good enough reason to get that baby out.”

So, take a deep breath, try to relax and know that when the little one is ready, he will make his appearance. And, in the end, remember what Kristin said, “I guarantee your kid will come out. They can’t live in there forever. You may think they will, but they won’t.”

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{This article first appeared in The Family Magazine of Michiana. Photo credit: ©falonkoontz – Fotolia.com.}

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