As I write this, I am five days past my due date with my third baby. I’m no stranger to being “overdue.” With my last pregnancy, I gave birth five days after my estimated due date. I was lucky enough with my first to go into labor three days before being due. Despite the fact that a perfectly healthy pregnancy can last between 38 – 42 weeks, we are so ingrained to hinge on the almighty 40 weeks “deadline.”
Here’s the reality: 40 weeks is an average time for pregnancy that is based on a date (last menstrual period or conception) that can be uncertain or inaccurate. The result is an estimate – not a deadline, expiration or delivery date. Your baby is not a FedEx package. And yet, women who go beyond the magical 40 weeks due date are made to feel like a pressure cooker. Well-meaning family and friends call, text and email to check in, asking questions like, “Are you still pregnant?!”; some care providers put women who are postdates on a time clock, often stripping membranes to jumpstart labor, performing a barrage of tests to check on baby and scheduling an induction date; and then there is the general discomfort and exhaustion that comes along with the end of a pregnancy that makes a woman feel like she is “so done” with pregnancy. With all of this pressure, even the most patient and informed woman becomes irritated, on edge and prone to doing whatever it takes to birth her baby.
Have you ever heard anyone say that children develop and hit milestones at different rates? The same is true for developing babies. Some may be ready for birth at 39 and-a-half weeks while others need an extra two weeks or more. Allowing baby to initiate birth helps ensure that he or she receives enough time to develop and mature. Contrary to what many believe, the last few weeks of pregnancy are not just for fattening baby up. Important organs, like the brain, lungs and liver, are still developing, as well as functions like sucking and swallowing. Interrupting these processes by scheduling an induction — unless there is true medical reason — can deprive baby of the time he or she needs to grow, and poses risks associated with induction.
So, what do you do when you’re overdue? Having been in this situation twice now, my best advice is to stop waiting around. Sitting around, jumping at every little twinge, ache or contraction, waiting for labor to begin will do nothing but drive you absolutely crazy! If you’re physically able, schedule something to do every day for three days straight. Make dinner plans, get a pedicure, see a movie, visit a friend, make freezer meals — you get the idea. If you come to the end of those three days and baby is still cooking, schedule the next three days. Having something to look forward to besides the birth of your baby will help pass the time and keep your mind occupied. And when you encounter the questions, comments and suggestions from others about your overdue-ness, smile and say something like, “Just like a cake, baking times may vary.”