Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Due dates - has it come down to control?

The more I learn about natural childbirth, the more I think our country needs to take a little chill pill. Not a huge one, just a little one. One that would change the expectation, anticipation, and dependence on the "due date."

Whenever someone announces their pregnancy, people ask, "When are you due?" It's not a bad thing - I ask it too. And all women have their dates ready. "I am due October 3rd." Immediately people burn that date into their brains. If the woman goes any earlier, well, she had her conception date wrong. Any later? OH NO, she needs to be induced!

In the natural birth community, it's more common to hear women give an estimated time-frame for the baby's arrival - not one specific day. I try to do this by saying, "I'm due early October." Giving a general time-frame works better because it takes the pressure off yourself. Come October 2nd, you know the baby could come anytime, be that next week or two weeks. But people are nervously biting their nails, pacing the hallways, because you're due tomorrow! The baby is coming tomorrow!

But guess what?
The due date is not an expiration date!

Psh, obviously, you might think. But seriously, people seem to consider the two as one and the same. We're used to everything having an expiration date. Our milk, our cheeses, the salsa in the back of the fridge, and even car seats now have an expiration date! But not pregnancy. The average length of a pregnancy is 266 days - some are longer and others are shorter. It's not as if once day 267 comes, the pregnancy should be over.

When parents and doctors think like this, and the baby hasn't arrived by its "due date", they can start to wonder what's wrong. If the baby isn't born soon, he will get too big. There's not enough amniotic fluid. The baby is going to keep growing and there won't be any room for him. The placenta is going to dry up and fall apart. The baby is going to go bad if he's not born!

Then a decision has to be made. We either let the pregnancy go well into week 50 - or we induce. Women believe that if they don't induce, they will be pregnant for the rest of their lives. Since that option simply isn't acceptable, we induce.

The problem with this decision is that labors induced unnaturally can be extremely stressful. You take a naturally occurring event (birth) and take control over it by making it happen now. Hooked up to an IV with a pitocin drip, forced contractions begin, and the body suddenly has to adjust to labor. Labors that start with induction are known to be more intense and can cause fetal distress. This often leads to the need for a c-section.

You hear a lot, "If we weren't in the hospital, the baby could have died. His heart rate dropped, he went into distress, and they had to perform an emergency c-section." But think about it...what if all that happened because we took over? What if the baby wasn't ready? What if the body wasn't ready? What if labor would have naturally begun the next day?

It's hard to wait for the arrival of the baby. We get impatient and want our baby to be okay.

But interfering can cause so many more problems than if we had just let nature take its course. When I hear people say, "We have to induce because there's no room left for the baby," I want to laugh out loud. If there's no room left for the baby, the only place he can go is down - and that means out! If there's no room left for the baby, he's not stuck there forever.

This is not to say there aren't situations where the baby truly is too big for a mother to birth; however, those instances are so rare that it's unfair to put every women in that category. Doctors have been wrong before by estimating the weight of the baby at 8lbs, and saying it's too large. When the baby is born (naturally and vaginally, by the way), he actually weighs at 10lbs. It can be done! But that's a topic for another time.

We all need to take a step back and hand our trust over to nature. Every aspect of our lives cannot be controlled - and especially not the birthday of children. We need to learn to be patient and how to be hands-off. So spread the word, "The due date is not an expiration date."

(All information has come from the wonderful resources of Ina May Gaskin's books, The Business of Being Born dvd, and the stories and experiences of real-life women.)


Jo said...

I so agree with your feelings here. Give God a chance to bring that little one in His time! Impatience and fear of mal-practice are so often the cause for c-sections and often difficulties that a vaginal birth might not have caused.
Great blog.
BTW, I also love the comments part of blogging!

Mojo Writin' said...

I think spreading the word about due dates not being expiration dates should be a campaign of some sort. So many women seem to panic if the due date isn't adhered to perfectly, it's sad. Nice take on control :)

Susan Kane said...

Many first time mothers get anxious if the 'due date' passes and there is no baby. I had a friend whose first baby was two weeks late; she decided the baby would NEVER arrive. She even disassembled the crib! You are right--there should be a general time frame.

i.ikeda said...

I won't lie, I was soooo ready for N. to be born by the time she came - and she came early! But if she had gone past the due date I don't think I would have fallen for the "let's induce" pressure, or I hope I wouldn't. My sister didn't. She went well over her due date but she waited until labor actually began with my niece. My nephew was a different story. It was traumatizing for her, in a new city and new hospital where the doctors pressured her so much to have a c-section. I still get furious when I remember. I kept yelling at my mom on the phone telling her to fight for my sister, not to let them pressure her, but my mom was on their side! I love my mom, but she drives me insane with her inability to fight anything. *sigh* So yeah, I wish some doctors would chill in Brazil too and stop pushing a c-section (they skip induction altogether, can you believe it?)

Kathy29156 said...

I loved this! Having been pregnant 3 times, I can definitely identify with counting the days until D-Day. I had c-sections for both of my children, although my son had to be brought earlier than his planned c-section date because of dangerous complications for both him and me. Thankfully we both lived through it. Great post and great take on control!


Brenda Stevens said...

LOVE IT!! so true..honestly in my profession; i heard many were choosing C Sections because they; "didn't want to stretch themselves through the birthing process"......"O MY GAWwwd" why of COURSE God forbid you get wrinkled labia lips, ok don't get me going! : )

Jenn said...

I like your take on control...and natural birthing, I think if you can go that route it is definitely something you should try!!

However I have no shame in admitting that I have 5 children and not one of them were born naturally. I didn't regret it one bit either. I tended to have huge babies, 8 or 9lbs. The children were all born perfectly fine. No complications and no horror stories, with my induced labor.

I was always induced because the 9th month ultrasounds said each of them were already over 12 lbs and I don't know many moms who wouldn't just sign right up for that pitocin and get that baby out before it reached a heavier weight. I'd rather be induced than have a c-section. Luckily, the ultrasound weights were inaccurate and that was not the case, but I was not one to take any chances. Of course these decisions were not based on the due date but rather the projected size of the babies.

That said, I love how you put the due date is NOT the expiration date. Exactly.

Cheers, Jenn.

Marian said...

I think that this is very personal really and that there are no real absolutes for anyone. It's okay either way to have natural childbirth or no so natural... Child birth after all has been for a few years! LOL!

Good luck with the rest of your pregnancy!

Karen @ Fun 4 Kids in Buffalo said...

I've had 3 kids. #1 and #3 arrived when they were ready. I was induced with #2 and in hindsight so wish I would have let her come when she was ready. Also, don't get me wrong here, I loved my OB, but with #3 was very frustrated with the Dr. pushing me to be induced.

Enjoying your site -thanks.

Word Nerd said...

I tend to think that letting nature take its course is the way to go with most things. Obviously, there are times when intervention is necessary, but overall, our bodies know what to do when we listen to them and give them proper care (not that I always do that...).

beachlover said...

I just love reading about pregnancy, as I have done it quite a few times. I tried three times to have a baby naturally, but my body just wouldn't cooperate, doggon' it. I admire women who have their baby naturally. For me, I thought the pain was gonna KILL me! EPIDURAL PLEASE - NOW!

I love anything and everything that is natural. I really enjoyed your blog!

Alana said...

Due date not an expiration date = brilliant. :) I will be sure to pass this on to a birthing instructor friend with similar sentiments.

My "due date" was far, far off, as my twins were six weeks early! Eek! Induced, but no c-section. I must admit I was more keen on letting things run their course, but in my case I am so thankful for the amazing doctors and nurses that I had and their monitoring as one of the fetuses was robbing the other of nutrition, meaning no blood flow in the second baby's umbilical cord for the last three weeks of the pregnancy. Scary stuff, and in this case truly thankful for modern-day medicine. Good lesson that I had no control whatsoever for being "ready" for babies to arrive.

However, in general, totally agree and understand where you're coming from! :)