The curse of the due date and the eviction notice for your baby is clearly etched in every woman’s mind after she has confirmation of her pregnancy. She marks that date on the calendar with excitement and shares this with all her family and friends.
This is when her baby will come.
Then as the days grow into months, her belly getting bigger and more noticeable, her hormones raging and hospital visits increasing, her due date starts looming and then we see the infiltration of stress, anxiety and fear as her head is filled with comments about dead babies, the placenta failing, big baby, small pelvis, closed cervix, red hair, short height and time limits, staff shortages and the list of failures is endless.
Why are women no longer allowed to enjoy their pregnancy and positively anticipate a normal, physiological birth?
During a discussion one of my VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) clients told me that with her first baby she felt so impatient to get her baby out, yet she believes now that is why her first birth ended in a traumatic caesarean.
So many women are being conditioned to think they should be trying to get things moving along by 38 weeks, and not letting themselves go past 40 weeks because their baby might die.
Checking the social media groups I belong to the never-ending questions about medical inductions, natural inductions, stretch and sweeps, vaginal exams to check what the cervix is doing and stressing because it is still long, hard, posterior and unfavourable – in other words – not ready for labour and birth.
If something has not started to happen before 40 weeks, they start to think that something is wrong, their body is not working so they must do something before their caregivers do rather than saying “I don’t consent to that” and the care provider supporting the woman’s choice.
It also doesn’t help when women are given a date to stick by – that damn date is such a curse to pregnant women. Why are women told that their due date is when their baby will be born – when clearly there is no crystal ball that says it is so, and not all women will have 28-day cycles, and we also know that some women can ovulate more than once in a month. It is important to also consider that babies develop at different rates – your baby is unique – don’t compare your pregnancy and baby to anyone else.
Why are we so focussed on one date?
We know that only around 4% of babies are born on their due date.
We know that first time mums on average give birth around 41 weeks and 3 days so we have to give their baby time to ripen – we wouldn’t dream of pulling an orange off the tree when it is still green.
Why are women being told that they must give birth by their due date, if not before?
It’s a numbers game – and in this game the numbers can be manipulated to bully or coerce women into doing something they don’t want to do or don’t know any better.
Why are women being told that it is unsafe to go beyond 40 weeks, or 41 weeks or more when the evidence shows that the risk of stillbirth is less than 1% (0.52 per 1000) at 40 weeks, 0.68 per 1000 at 41 weeks and 1.17 per 1000 from 42 weeks. So when your care provider says something like “your risk of stillbirth doubles once you go past 40 weeks” this is correct, but the language used is misleading. If we look at the stillbirth statistics at 40 weeks which is 0.52 per 1000 (.052%) this, then goes to 1.17 per 1000 (.117%) at 42 weeks – so yes it doubles but look at that – it is still well under 1%.
Does this change your way of thinking and make it less fearful?
Why are women being asked constantly by their family members and friends why they haven’t been induced when they go past their due date?
This triggers so much fear and never-ending doubts and second guessing about their body’s ability to birth their baby.
It also conditions women to believe that if their body has not gone into labour by their due date, then their body is broken and should be fixed by the “experts” of labour and birth – their Obstetrician.
The experts of labour and birth take an oath “first do no harm” yet here we are seeing so many women being induced that leads to harm to both mother and baby – sometimes not in a physical sense, but in a mental and emotional sense that can have long lasting (even lifelong) repercussions to that woman’s health, which then affects her life, her family’s life and her baby’s life.
By then the woman has fallen through the cracks and has long been forgotten by her care providers that scared her into that induction.
My mission is to help women avoid that primary caesarean!
This means that very first caesarean!
Because once a woman has a caesarean, this will affect her pregnancy and births for the rest of her life.
Something that Dr Elliott Main (Obstetrician in Stanford, California) said in a training course that I was doing that has really stuck in my mind was “Probably the biggest risk of the first caesarean is the repeat caesarean.”
We must encourage women to honour their body, cherish their pregnancy, and believe in their innate wisdom to birth their baby when they are ready.
Think about all those women who have birthed undisturbed before you. Yes, there may be women who truly needed to be induced for medical reasons – real reasons happening in that moment that required immediate attention – not possible risks that may not happen.
Yes, there are risks in childbirth, but many of those risks are minimal, yet women are still made to fear that their body is not capable without medical intervention, and they have to rely on mechanical methods.
Think about whether your decision is based on treating an “actual” problem or treating a “potential” problem that may not even occur.
So, what can women do going into the final weeks of their pregnancy to ensure they are feeling calm, relaxed, and prepared for labour and birth?
The client I mentioned earlier has been kind enough to share her thoughts and experience:
“Coming to the end of my first pregnancy I was thinking “it’s now 40 weeks and I have no signs of labour – so according to my Obstetrician my placenta will start to shut down and we’ll both die.”
But basically, I was led to believe that 40 weeks was D-day and anything past that was a problem. So, by 40+4 with no signs of labour I was upset and impatient and concerned (naturally, after the information I’d been given) so saw no problem with attempting an induction – it seemed like a logical solution.
But because there were no changes in the cervix, no contractions and bub hadn’t dropped at all, I now believe that bub was more on a 42-week timeline and that a 40-week deadline placed on her by those on the outside was probably a tad unfair to her and her birth.
After we attempted an induction there were still no signs that my body was ready so it’s no surprise that my Obstetrician quickly recommended an elective caesarean because my body wasn’t responding and due to my “small hips and baby’s big head” and all the rest of it, it would probably be the only way to get her out.
Vicki’s classes have now shown me how flexible the hips and baby’s head really are, and how movement and positioning really makes a difference, so I now don’t believe this was a sufficient reason to have a caesarean without waiting longer for bub to bake.
It’s also shown me that an induction before the body and baby are ready can actually cause the body to panic and “fight” labour, which is actually a natural response to being requested to push baby out when it’s not time yet.
This time around I’m going to be more patient, and do things differently with a few things to help me:
- Being more educated and in control knowing what my choices are.
- Having a better understanding of what is happening with my body and using specific maternal and foetal positioning techniques and pregnancy yoga and stretching to open the pelvis.
- Knowing a full-term pregnancy is anywhere from 37-42 weeks and that 40 weeks is just a guesstimate, so I will spend those last few days or weeks keeping myself occupied, nourished and nurtured.
- Changing my healthcare provider to one that is VBAC supportive and hypnobirthing aware and not so intervention and c-section happy.
I also wanted to include a side note – bub did not have a big head and weighed an extremely average 7.5 pounds, so not a big baby at all. It is important to know that nobody can accurately tell you how big your baby is going to be until it has been born and is then weighed and measured.”
So many questions
It is so important for women to be educated about birth. Yes, we all know what needs to happen, but how does it happen? Do you know what your body is actually doing? Why do you have contractions? What is happening to your body during those contractions? How is your baby responding? What does effacing and dilation actually mean and how does that happen? What happens when you are fearful? What does the body need to handle labour and birth effectively? How can you avoid interventions and caesareans? Why is it important to focus on “where is baby” rather than “what is the cervix doing?”
This is why it is so important for couples to attend independent childbirth classes so you are fully educated, you know your choices, you are armed with tools and techniques to help your baby get into a good position and what a woman needs to do to ensure her body is ready and primed for labour and birth, while at the same time partners are feeling confident about their role as well, because the success of birth also comes down to the woman’s support / birth team.
Know more – do better.
Your pregnancy and the birth of your baby is such a significant journey in your life, and how you birth can and will have a huge impact on your postpartum period.
You only get one opportunity to birth this baby in a positive, calm way. You can always take back the pram or the car seat, but you can’t take back your birth.
Your birth is worth investing in and you and your baby deserve that.
Rachel Reed from Midwife Thinking has articles on induction, and I always recommend her book “Why Induction Matters” to all my clients so they can understand what happens when you have a “failed induction” that can lead to medical interventions and caesarean.
World renowned researcher on the hormonal physiology of birth, Dr Sarah Buckley, also shares some good resources:
Gold Perinatal Online Conference Interview with Dr Sarah Buckley
Podcast interview with Dr Sarah Buckley
Hormonal physiology of birth by Dr Sarah Buckley
Synthetic Oxytocin (Pitocin / Sytocinon) – Unpacking the myths and side effects:
The ARRIVE Trial – should every mother be induced?
My name is Vicki Hobbs, and I am the Founder and one of the trainers at the Doula Training Academy Australia. I am also a Childbirth Educator (Back to Basics Birthing), Certified VBAC Educator, Remedial Massage Therapist specialising in Pregnancy & Postpartum Massage, Birth & Postpartum Doula, Certified Placenta Encapsulator, Hypnotherapist, Aromatherapist, Reiki Practitioner and Life Coach. I am a serial workshopper and learner, so that I keep up to date with new research and information so that I can provide you with up-to-date resources. My focus has always been on the mind, the body and the emotions and how they all need to be in balance for harmony. I can be contacted by email at [email protected] or go back to my Blog Page for more great articles and information.