The myth of the “late” baby

Photo courtesy of Coral Atkinson

A big shout out to the gorgeous @coral.atkinson who shared this photograph of her pregnant belly on Instagram yesterday in the hope that it is the last she posts before the arrival of her third baby.  She says, “Today I reached my due date, I was an emotional wreck all morning, gutted that even third time around I couldn’t have a baby before that milestone.  I feel like hiding away in a darkened room.”  

There is something very wrong with our medical system if women feel like failures if they haven’t birthed their babies by a due date, commonly known as an EDD (Estimated Delivery Date).  Crucially, we need to recognize that the date is an estimation, a guess date – plucked from somewhere in the range of 37 and 42 weeks, those dates being the point at which pregnancy is considered full term.  Other countries choose different dates – France has long considered 41 weeks to be the guess date for birth, and that sits far better with us given that 65% of women will sail past their UK EDD without the first sign of a twinge or show.  Babies arrive in their own sweet time – women gestate for different lengths of time – and are rarely “late”.  Babies are born when their bodies, and particularly their respiratory systems, have matured.  Research last year finally proved what people had believed for a long time, that components in the surfactant produced by the baby’s lungs enter the mother’s system and triggers the labour process to start.  It is a beautiful symbiosis between mother and baby – two bodies working together.  The process doesn’t need to be kick-started unless there is a medical reason for induction and there is little evidence to show that the stretch and sweep which is so routinely offered to mothers as they pass 40 weeks does anything beneficial at all.

So, how could we make that time at the end of pregnancy easier?  What would make women feel better about themselves and more positive towards their babies?  Would it help if this pressure to perform by a particular date was removed?  Could we give women a due window, an estimated due month or a best-before date for birth?  Is there a way that we could nurture, support and empower women in these last days and weeks to feel that they are right where they need to be, without the emotive words “overdue” and “late” hanging over their heads?  If you’ve got any brilliant ideas about how we can change the current state of play we would love to know!

We send all our best wishes and birthing vibes to Coral as she heads towards the birth date and hope, for her sake, that Baby Three decides to come soon!

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