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Why Your Baby’s Due Date Is Probably Way Off

Photograph by Twenty20

My first child arrived eight days before his due date. I was so proud to have a son who was so clearly an overachiever from the start. During my second pregnancy, the ultrasound indicated that my baby was a little large and possibly a few weeks further along than we'd initially calculated. Between this news and my first baby being early, I was positive that my second pregnancy would be shorter than 40 weeks.

But when I met with my midwife for a checkup a couple of days before the date that I was "due," my baby was showing no signs of making her entrance into the world anytime soon. It was at this point that my midwife casually mentioned scheduling an induction. Now understand, I'm sort of a hippie and fully intended to have a birthing experience free of medication, just like I did the first time. The thought of being induced was enough to make me nauseous.

Understand that healthy pregnancies can vary in length, and vary more than we had previously thought.

I told her I didn't want to discuss it just yet, but at the next week's checkup, my midwife became more insistent that we look at getting an induction scheduled. I told her that if we passed the 42-week mark, then I would discuss it. Thankfully, my little girl decided to arrive a few days before we would've had the dreadful conversation, so it didn't end up being an issue. But what blew my mind was that, before I was even past my due date, we were talking about induction as if it were a foregone conclusion.

We have always understood a healthy pregnancy to last between 37 and 42 weeks. That five-week gap allows for the variation in a woman's menstrual cycles and the possibility that her date of ovulation was not what she thought it was. These are certainly real factors, but research released in 2015 found that the average time from actual ovulation to birth was a little over 38 weeks, and that the length of the pregnancy could vary by as much as 37 days. Five weeks of variation, and that does not take into account errors in ovulation date calculation.

So the little wheel that your OB uses to predict your due date is a handy guide, but you certainly can't rely on it to be accurate. Pregnancy is difficult, and it can be tempting to allow yourself to be induced, but trust your baby.

Trust your body.

Understand that healthy pregnancies can vary in length, and vary more than we had previously thought. And don't allow yourself to be talked into induction before you hit the 42-week mark unless there are health complications. Hang in there as long as you can, because until your baby is ready, your womb is the safest, healthiest place for him to grow.

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