Due dates – love them or hate them, as a Doula, I just can’t seem to avoid the question that’s on (almost) every woman’s mind.
‘I’m 40 weeks. But where’s my baby?’
This question is then usually followed by a frantic,
‘My health care provider told me that my baby is going to die/my amniotic fluid will dry up/baby will turn into a dry prune/my placenta will stop working/I will be pregnant forever, and the only way to avoid all this risk, is scheduled induction or cesarean.’
But what you most probably didn’t know, is the books from which your health professional studied; everything he/she learnt about due dates, is fundamentally based on a formula created in 1812.
Yup, you read that right.
From the first moment a woman finds out she’s pregnant, she either fantasizes or frets about her (eventual) day of labour. Her excitement carries her to the office of her OB, or her Midwife, where they ask you a few questions. Pretty standard stuff, really. But then they get you to pee on a stick, and ask you one seemingly un-important question.
‘When was the date of your last menstrual period?’
I shit you not, that from this answer, with a few twirls of a generic EDD fancy spheric calendar, they set your baby’s expiration date/eviction notice. Just like that, set in stone.
‘Angela – your baby is due here on August 5th.’
Awesome! There’s a date. That’s when I’ll meet my baby! Cool. I’m blinded by excitement at this stage, oblivious to the impact my LMP has had.
Fast forward to my dating scan. I’m sitting in a room with the grumpiest ultrasound technician I’ve ever come across. I’m just so delighted that I get to see my baby’s face, and hear his little heart, that I pay no attention to his lack of professionalism or interpersonal skills. For all I care, he can take his negativity and put it where the sun don’t shine. What I don’t know, is that he is half heartedly “measuring” my baby in a hurry, distracted with thoughts of coffee and turmoiled relationships. What I don’t know, is that he is putting those seemingly reliable measurements into a computer, that will then be put up against the averages in size/weight/growth. From there, this machine and system (that is notoriously famous for it’s inaccuracy) will apparently confirm the exact age/sex of my baby.
It is here, unbeknownst to me, that I’ve been sucked into the madness that is the due date rodeo. From a couple questions about my age & weight & the date of my last menstrual period, and a trip to the pee-stick boutique – somehow, you led me to believe that you can predict, beyond a shadow of a doubt, when my baby will arrive. And that you know better than my body’s biological clock, and my baby’s biological clock.
Fast forward to 38 weeks. I’m being booked weekly visits, sometimes two per week. I ask about the excessive appointment dates in advance. Isn’t it a bit of over-kill? I’m repeatedly told that ‘this is what’s best for you and for baby’. I shrug. It’s my first baby, I don’t know. I mean, they know what they’re doing right? Plus, I’m just so excited to meet this baby, I’m just about ready to agree and nod nicely to everything. But then it starts. At every single appointment, induction is discussed.
EVERY single one. It then starts to feel like these appointments were created just to invite me in, to schedule in an induction. I feel uncomfortable. And then I feel worried. I am made to feel scared. From the information gathered at TWO appointments, my health care professionals have decided they KNOW that baby is due now. And that waiting beyond 40 weeks, puts my baby & I infinitely more at risk. I’m confused. I’m frustrated. Why is he trying to terrify me? Where has he got this information from? At this stage, I am trying so desperately to hold onto my mama instinct, and fight for my bodily autonomy. No. It doesn’t feel right. Sorry, thanks for the recommendation but I am waiting for labour to start spontaneously. It’s now his turn to be frustrated. He tells me, ‘ Well, you can’t be pregnant forever. And anyway, we get really busy at the hospital, so we need to book you in advance to be induced. It’s a matter of resource management. We can’t have everyone having their babies at the same time.’
What the f*ck?
I go home. Feeling defeated. And even feeling guilty. Yes, he was that good with the mama manipulation. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he’s not a bad guy – but where on earth is he getting his information from? What evidence based research? What science? How can you tell me exactly when my baby is due to be born, if you don’t know my body, when it ovulates, what my menstrual cycle is, or isn’t; nor the exact moment I fell pregnant. How can you accurately assess risk, if you aren’t painting a picture with crystal clear information, that you’ve derived from women, on a case-by-case basis?
The stress of this ‘due date’ and taunt of induction was enough for a first time mama to go mad. I then came across the folly of Naegele’s Rule. The very study on which obstetric medicine & practice is based.
If you are expecting a baby, mama’s, PLEASE, be kind to yourself and read the article linked above. It is incredibly important for women to understand the flawed theory behind all EDD related hospital policy & care recommendation.
I am not a medical expert, nor an expert of women’s bodies or expert on birth. But I know logic – my heart flows with an instinctual understanding of pregnancy & birth. You due date is nothing but an educated guess. Yes, sometimes right. Sometimes so very not. It creates anxieties where there should be none. It creates disconnection between mother & her body, mother & her baby. It perpetuates the belief that a woman’s body is broken, and that we need it governed by a third party. That we need our births managed, micro-managed and then some.
Everyone is so eager to tell you the risks of going ‘over due’, but has anyone recently explained the risks of wrong dates, prematurity, underdeveloped brains & lungs, underweight, unable to regulate temperature, failed inductions, dysfunctional labours, unnecessary caesareans, breastfeeding issues, physical & emotional repercussion from forced labour?
Medicine is amazing. But you know what, by nature it is flawed. Sometimes, the people we trust fuck up. Not because they are terrible people. But often because they are stuck in a learning cycle that is stuck in it’s ways. EDD is a classic example of something that needs addressing desperately, by so many medical bodies. As a first time mom, I was naive. But now I know better, so I do better. I ask questions. I do my research. I listen to my body. And so should you.
All my love,
Melbourne Doula, Birth Photographer & Birth Business Coach
P.S Want to work with me? Head HERE for more info!