You’ve been to your first scan and you’ve seen your baby on the screen and you’ve been given a date on when to expect to meet your precious baby.
For many parents this means circling it on the calendar at home as the most important date that year, letting family and friends know what day baby is due and start counting the days until that big day.
However, very few babies arrive on the estimated due date (EDD) you’ve been given. Most babies arrive between 37 weeks and 41 weeks of pregnancy, usually within a week on either side of their expected due date. According to research, only about one in 25 (four per cent) of babies are born on their exact due date. Just under one in five babies are born at 41 weeks or after.
The date you have been given is an estimation of the day that you will give birth. It’s calculated as 40 weeks after the first day of your last period. If your EDD was worked out using your last menstrual period (LMP), you may find that there is a change in this after your first scan which gives a more accurate picture of how far along in your pregnancy you are. Our midwife Amina advises ‘instead of a due date, think of it as a ‘due time’ of 5 weeks. Keep dates vague when sharing with others, so that you don’t feel the pressure of everyone counting down to a date and then constantly asking if baby is late!’.
If your pregnancy lasts longer than 42 weeks (294 days), it’s called a prolonged pregnancy. Between five per cent and 10 per cent of women have a pregnancy that naturally lasts this long.
First time mums, if left alone to go into labour naturally tend to be pregnant for about 41 weeks and 1 day. Women who’ve had babies before tend to deliver around 40 weeks and 3 days. Only about 10% of women go longer than 42 weeks. That’s average. Some give birth earlier and some go a little longer and it’s almost always completely normal. A little frustrating, maybe, but still normal.
Although most babies remain healthy, obstetricians do worry when pregnancy continues several weeks past their due date. That’s because, after 42 weeks of pregnancy, a small number of babies die unexpectedly while they are still inside the womb (uterus) or shortly after the birth.
Most hospitals follow the national guidelines which recommend offering induction when you’re 41 weeks pregnant. This is based on evidence that babies are healthier at birth and more likely to be born safe and well when hospitals induce labour at or beyond 41 weeks.
Our antenatal classes offer lots of advice and information on what to expect in the final few weeks of your pregnancy, what to look out for and tried and tested methods of what can help ripen the uterus. We also cover in detail what induction of labour means and your choices, as well as tips on managing being induced.
However, most importantly remember that most of the time when women go past their due date, there is nothing wrong with them or their babies. They’re just not done yet. Unless there’s some indication that there’s a problem, try not worry or get frustrated, relax, enjoy the extra time preparing to meet your baby and rest up too.
Whether you give birth exactly on your due date—or in the weeks before or after—doesn’t really matter in the long run. After all, you’ll just be happy to meet your baby whenever they arrive.