Many people think that the due date is a medically exact date for when the baby will arrive. However, it represents only an average of a wide range of possible dates of arrival. Few babies are born exactly on their due date, and a normal gestation length is between 38 and 42 weeks. Inductions at 40 or 41 weeks are becoming increasingly common, and even babies who have not been born yet at one or two days after the due date are considered “late” by mothers and some doctors. This is a worrying trend, as there are numerous reasons why it’s not necessarily a good idea to induce before 42 weeks gestation.
First the due date is just a scientific estimate for when the baby will be born, based on the average length of all pregnancies (40 weeks). As this is just an average, it means that for some women it’s normal for their body and their family to have babies born at 41 or 42 weeks, or 38 or 39 weeks. Before leaping for the induction (although I know it can be tempting when you are full term and exhausted) consider the fact that you are still completely normal if you go until 41 or 42 weeks before you have your baby. Check in with your mother, aunts, or any female siblings to find out when they went into labor with their babies. There is some research showing that both pre-term labor and going legitimately overdue (past 42 weeks) runs in families, so ask before you decide to make a decision to induce in case you are one of those families with slightly later than usual births.
The next reason to consider before you decide to opt for (or be pressured into) an induction is that due dates can be incorrect. While ultrasound technology tends to provide greater accuracy for dates, there is still a chance that the dating could be up to a week off. This may mean that when you think you are a week ‘overdue’, you are actually right on time to have your baby. Allowing yourself a bit of leeway to go into labor spontaneously may be just what the doctor ordered if the dating of your pregnancy was ever so slightly (even by just a few days) off.
Finally, consider the fact that induction births are often harder and more difficult than going into labor spontaneously. An induction is performed in a couple of ways: by use of a physical instrument to open the cervix, or by use of hormones. In most inductions these are used in tandem. The hormone used is a synthetic version of oxytocin, the hormone that causes labor. It is known as pitocin or syntocinon. Basically, it forces your body to start a process that it is not ready for: labor. The contractions it causes are usually extremely powerful, and longer than regular contractions. This can tire you out, and cause some distress to the baby. Pitocin and syntocinon do not cross the blood-brain-barrier in the same way that natural oxytocin does, so they do not provide the pain reducing effects that natural oxytocin does, which leaves many women less able to cope with the labor. Some women are able to have an induction without pain medication, but it is less likely than spontaneous labor. There is currently conflicting evidence in relation to whether or not an induction increases or decreases your likelihood of having a caesarian section.
Most doctors will not induce unless it is medically necessary. Ask questions and think about the above when considering your baby’s arrival into the world.
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