Is giving a due date counterproductive?

Is giving a due date counterproductive?

Many mothers know it: the countdown to the DUE DATE: THE date when you will get to meet YOUR baby! But many women are disappointed when their due date comes and goes, and there’s still no sign of their little one.

It’s a fact: first time mothers tend to be pregnant for around 41 weeks and 1 day. After more than one baby, the average delivery happens at 40 weeks and 3 days. About 10% of women carry their babies for more than 42 weeks. Yet we still insist on setting a mostly unachievable goal, sending many mothers-to-be into a spiral of despair and worry, which can often have undesirable consequences.

In an abundance of cases, the medical profession believes ‘going overdue’ and increased risk go hand-in-hand, often recommending medical intervention (e.g. induction) to ‘get things going’. In an analysis of German perinatal data, gathered from 2004 to 2013 however, there is evidence to suggest this is not a watertight conclusion and should be questioned:

Researchers analysed the number of stillbirths in Germany in relation to the stage of pregnancy, using data collected between 2004 and 2013. They found that stillbirths per 1000 births is low between 41+0 and 41+6 days (0.7 per 1000); into the 42nd week of pregnancy, there was an increase to 2.3 still births per 1000 and for pregnancies lasting longer than 42+6 weeks, 6.3 per 1000.

This conclusion of the analysis seems to further support the case for not inducing birth before 41+6 weeks of pregnancy for pregnancies with one baby (as opposed to multiples, which were excluded from the analysis).

The outcome also helps to emphasise that giving a single day as the ‘due date’ isn’t necessarily positive. If there is a miscalculation and hospital policy dictates a birth must be induced at 40/41 weeks, induction may take longer if the cervix is not yet ripe (which may result in feotal distress, often followed at best by a forceps or ventouse birth, at worst by a C-section) and baby may simply not be ready to come, which can lead to difficulties due to them not being fully developed physically.

So next time you want to ask a mother-to-be “What’s your due date?”, bite your tongue!


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