I've wondered for a long time; why do we still deal in a single estimated due date, when it's well documented (even in the NICE guidelines) that Full Term is anywhere between 37-42 weeks. I get that it's helpful to have some sort of marker, but the due date becomes the most spoken sentence throughout our pregnancies. It's normally the first question people ask; "Oh lovely! What's your due date?" so you'll find yourself saying that date multiple times a day/week. It becomes ingrained, and something so looked forward to - so it's hard not to get attached! Mine was even my password for my work email!
Fewer than 5% of babies are born on their assigned due date which speaks volumes as to how accurate they are. Even so; if that date comes and goes, it's very easy to feel disappointment and pressure.
Comedian Russell Brand, while being interviewed on the One Show in January, said that he thought his baby would certainly arrive when it was due.
"I was anticipating that the baby would arrive at exactly the point that was predetermined. I took that doctor at his word, like that meteorological satellite man. "We can calculate that this baby will arrive at exactly this moment"... Well, the baby wasn't born at that moment; that's why I had to go to Nottingham later on that day, I'd just held my little baby daughter, I had to go and do a show! And it didn't seem relevant all the stuff I was saying as this person had just turned up into the world."
So how can we enjoy those last few weeks of pregnancy without fixating on one date? My son is now six, and does everything in sixes at the moment, so here's my list of (six) things to help you navigate the due date minefield!
- Consider stretching the truth when telling people your due date. If it's 5th May, tell people it's the 20th. This way, when the 5th May arrives and baby hasn't, you won't get those well meaning texts, phone calls and Facebook messages asking "any movements yet?!" (Yes, and I thought I'd post them on Facebook first...!!). It removes a layer of pressure that you just don't need.
- If you don't want to make up a due date, be vague. Say 'end of June' or 'middle of July'. This gives you some wriggle room to avoid the '40 week pressure'.
- Read up and research on what happens when you are 'overdue' from a medical perspective. If you know the protocols around induction, when you'll be offered sweeps and the benefits and risks of all parts of induction, then you will be prepared to make informed choices that are right for you. We cover all of this on my courses.
- Reframe the time after your due date as bonus time. Make yourself a '40-week Jar'. On separate pieces of paper, write lovely relaxing things that you enjoy doing and fold each piece up. If you get to 40 weeks, take at least one 'job' from the jar each day and make it your mission to enjoy every second of it. (I've put six ideas at the bottom of this list to get you going)
- Oxytocin is your best friend, especially in late pregnancy. It's the 'love' hormone which we need during childbirth, but we can encourage its production by doing things that make us happy. Listen to your favourite podcast, watch some funny DVDs, organise a special date day with your best friend / child / partner. Laugh lots and your body will thank you.
- Above all, try and remember that your body and your baby have their own timeline. Use your Hypnobirthing techniques to stay calm and relaxed. Late pregnancy can be hard on your mind and body so be proactive about taking care of both (and hey, if that involves Dairy Milk then so be it!). Whether you have to wait 39 weeks or 42 weeks to meet your baby, you've done amazingly to come all this way - make the best of those last few weeks.
40-week Jar ideas*
- Go to a cafe for tea and cake (and buy an extra slice to takeaway)
- Take as long as you like to read a magazine
- Go the cinema during the day
- Iron some baby clothes (I never iron, and this was dreamy to me!)
- Book a reflexology appointment
- Take a nap any time you want
* If you already have a child / children and don't have much time to yourself, then your jar ideas can be about making it a priority to do so. Ask someone to babysit for a couple of hours or use your post-40-week days about having bonus 1:1 days with your little one.