This post is for all those sweet women who have had an unwanted induction with a previous pregnancy. For the women who do not like to argue, and who do not want to fight for “a few more days” again. It’s for women who gestate their babies on the longer end of the scale. Who hate that they are pushed to give birth earlier than their baby is ready. To all of you lovely ladies, I want to encourage you with a choice.
Choose your baby’s due date, and avoid induction.
Now wait a minute… You can’t choose a baby’s due date, right?! Ovulation and implantation determines when a baby is due. Besides, we’ve all heard that it’s better to think of due dates as “guess dates” now. Some babies come earlier, some later… Every baby and every woman is different.
Yes, and no. I want us to take another look at the topic of due dates as they relate to inductions. Many of you women reading this won’t have any use for a due date anyway if you’ve decided to have a freebirth. Family and friends will be told a birth month, or a vague reference to when baby might be coming. They don’t need to know the exact “due date” calculated as 266 days after ovulation, or 280 days after your last menstrual cycle. Why even give them a date? My answer is, “Because of stress. And because people like to know.”
People like to know.
People are interested in you and your baby. They may be a friend, a neighbor, the sweet gal who works two cubicles over, your mother, or a nosy neighbor. Not trying to be irritating, they ask the simple question, “When are you due?”
How do you feel about that question? Stressed?? Do you tell them “Sometime in May” and feel better because it’s vague? Or what about your Mother In Law who wants to buy a plane ticket to come and stay with you when the baby comes. She wants to stay for 4 weeks JUST so she can be sure not to miss the birth? In normal circumstances you like the woman, and you really would like her help with the baby and older children. But you do NOT want her there for your birth? She won’t accept “The month of May” as a due date, and might plan to come for an extra week in April just to be certain she won’t miss it. Stress, stress, stress!!! What do you do?
Let’s go back to my earlier statement
“Choose your baby’s due date.” I promise this will make sense in a minute.
Under normal circumstances, when women call the doctor to set up their first prenatal appointment, part of the intake paperwork for your pregnancy is the question “Date of Last Menstrual Cycle.” It seems like an innocent question. You whip out your cellphone and look at your fertility tracking app, and write down the date.
This is the moment where you have a choice. To possibly seal the fate of your birth, or give yourself some breathing room.
For all the mothers who track their cycles religiously and KNOW the date they ovulated, can you tell me what the doctor says when you also indicate ovulation date? Have you been brushed off? Do they smile knowingly and tell you “That’s nice, but we’re going to use your last cycle date”? Have they EVER preferred to use ovulation date to calculate their estimated due date for you? I’m guessing not. And when push comes to shove and you find yourself at 41 weeks pregnant facing induction during the next week they will NOT revisit this concept that your baby *might* be a week younger because you ovulated late.
Midwives actually might be more interested in listening to your explanation of menstrual dates and ovulation dates. If you have a good midwife I’ll bet she will go with the ovulation date and you’ll feel content that you are well taken care of. But when push comes to shove and you are 41 weeks pregnant, you will facing being dropped if you don’t give birth before 42 weeks. She cannot legally keep you on as a patient in most states.
Let me ask you a question:
What would happen if you gave them a date for your last menstrual cycle that wasn’t the day you started your bleed, and instead was 14 days before you ovulated?
Let’s back up and say you actually ovulated on day 21 that month, and you’re pregnant! But your period was three full weeks before ovulation, not the standard two weeks? You’re totally honest with your doctor, they choose the estimated due date based on your period, not ovulation. At the dating ultrasound your baby measures a week behind. No problem, your doctor isn’t concerned and doesn’t change your due date. Full term, your doctor starts pressuring you into induction and will not budge on their firm line that “at 41 weeks gestation we will induce.”
Fighting an induction
You are furious. Many women go to 42 weeks and have totally healthy babies. You know that your mother, aunts, grandmother, everyone in your family has gestated to 42 weeks and there is nothing wrong with your baby. He or she just isn’t ready to come out yet! Besides, baby isn’t even 41 weeks gestated yet; because of the late ovulation baby should only be 40 weeks. They won’t listen.
If you have a midwife, her hands will be tied. Keeping you on as a client past the 42 week mark (even if baby isn’t quite as far along) could get her license revoked. In extreme situations she will get jail time.
Let’s go back and rerun the scenario
Because of your fastidious tracking, you absolutely are confident that you ovulated on day 21 of your cycle. When the paperwork prompts last menstrual date you put in a date that is 14 days before ovulation. At the dating ultrasound your baby measures exactly on track! Yay! And when 41 weeks comes, and your doctor is pressuring you to induce you still don’t want it. As hard as you can, and as firmly as you can, you argue and hold fast to the latest date possible, and hope with all your might that baby comes before the induction.
If you have a midwife, then her 42 week cutoff for attending your birth is now a real 42 weeks.
Rerun the scenario one last time
You absolutely KNOW that you ovulated on day 21 of your cycle. You also KNOW that your baby will gestate until 42 week or beyond. Babies bake longer in your family. You are absolutely comfortable giving baby all the time to grow that it needs. But… You don’t want to fight with the doctor about being induced. When the paperwork asks for your last menstrual date, you give them a date only 4 or 7 days before ovulation.
When the doctor calculates your estimated due date, that number will come out to be between 7 and 10 days later than baby *would* be measuring. At the end of your pregnancy when baby is 41 weeks along, the doctor’s number on their chart will only say 39w3d or 40w0d. You can be pretty confident that your baby will complete its growth and come on out before the doctor and hospital even begin pressuring you into an induction.
If you have a midwife, then her 42 week cutoff for attending your birth is now around 43 weeks 3 days (if you give yourself 10 days). HOPEFULLY your baby will have come by then!
What about dating scans?
It’s the early ultrasounds that tend to get due-dates “corrected” or adjusted. Even so, many doctors won’t adjust a due date if it’s a week or less different from what they already have calculated.
Family and Friends?
If you really, really, really don’t like people asking you when baby is due, and why isn’t baby here yet? Consider also pushing the date you tell them off a week or ten days. You’ll have your little secret to treasure of when you hope and expect baby to arrive… But they will get to join you in excitedly expecting your sweet bundle of joy! Hopefully baby will still arrive before they expect, and you’ll have the happy news to share. Your mother in law will arrive (hopefully) AFTER the baby is born, and she’ll be available to help with all those baby diapers, laundry, and the older children!
What if baby comes unexpectedly early?
You’ve been telling people that baby is due at a date one week later than baby actually is expected. Suddenly you go into labor and baby is only 35 weeks (everyone thinks 34 weeks). YES. That’s early. Medical professionals will give extra care because they believe the baby is younger, but baby will actually have an extra week of growth. When baby arrives, they will do better than expected because of that extra growth.
So, what’s the takeaway?
When medical professionals ask the question “last menstrual cycle” — they will use the information you freely give them to draw certain lines in the sand. Once that is done, they will refuse to listen to any reasoning on your part. At the end of your pregnancy they will use that guess-due-date to force your hand. In other words, they will use an arbitrary date that you gave them to choose an arbitrary end-date for your pregnancy.
Don’t give them that power. (And maybe… don’t go in TOO early for an appointment or for any super early ultrasounds. They might change your due date based on those pictures, and you’ll be stuck again.)