If there is one thing that I would choose to educate women on nation-wide, just one topic that I could choose to cover for all women to hear, it would be the due date fallacies. So many unnecessary inductions are because of due date fears, misconceptions, and downright false information. So many unnecessary cesareans are due to "failed" ( see Failed Induction Means That Your Body Works! ) inductions. Not because there was something wrong with the woman's body, as MOST are told, but because her body and her baby simply were NOT ready.
There are so many false beliefs about due dates. One is that it is the magical number around which the baby is supposed to be born. I recently did an informal poll on CafeMom and so far ( I will post final results when they are in ), the VAST MAJORITY of women who have responded, have said that it's not normal to go past 40/41 weeks, and that they would absolutely induce so that they didn't risk baby dying or getting too big! Our society has done a great job of ignoring actual statistics and just following what their doctor tells them, or what their friends tell them. Why research when you can just ask? A commercial for Johnson and Johnson baby wash today started out with: "Your Doctor's guidance, your Mother's advice, your own intuition...." What does that tell us? Where do our securities lie when it comes to our children? According to most people in our society, doctors first.
And yet, the medical community and having a medical mindset in birth is what has gotten us into our 31.8% cesarean rate. Trusting your doctor first, instead of doing individualized research ( did your mom have a history of postdates? Did your grandma? Aunt? What might be normal for YOU and YOUR baby? ) is what is leading women to be cut open by the millions. And the worst part is - instead of it being viewed as a horror that needs to stop - it's seen as normalcy.
NORMAL gestation is anywhere from 38-42 weeks, and if you want to get technical, to 42 *completed* weeks. What now seems like long ago, women were given "due months". I like this idea! Let's take the "magical" number out of things, and let women know that they have a 4 week period of time in which their baby could be born. Maybe then we'd have less inductions. Maybe then we'd have less cesareans, and less women being told that there was something wrong with her body ( PELVIS too small KILLS me, "FAILURE" to progress, BABY too big...notice a theme? ). Depending on which statistics you look at, one study showed the stillbirth rate to be higher at 38 weeks than at 42 weeks. So then, should we induce at 37 weeks to avoid that higher curve at 38 weeks? Of course not! That would be just silly, right? ...
The MAIN thing with pregnant women is their due date. They get bombarded with highly personal questions starting as soon as 36 weeks. "When are you going to have your baby?" ( Did you GIVE me a crystal ball? ) "Are you dilated?" ( Are YOU dilated? What about YOUR bowel movements - have any soft ones lately? ) "When will your doctor induce you?" ( When did yours give you a lobotomy? ) "You look HUGE!" ( So do you, but it's rude for ME to say so! ) "Are you having twins?" ( Are YOU going to recover from my fiery wrath from being asked that for the one millionth time? )
Women are hardly ever reassured. Rarely is a woman told "Baby will come in perfect timing! Don't worry.", or "Your baby is just the right size! YOU made him/her after all." Women are rarely told that they DON'T need to be induced, and rarely are they NOT asked if their doctor has shoved a hand up their vagina to check the status of their cervix. People don't understand that they are continuing the common fears surrounding due dates and labor. They are doing NOTHING to help, but only cause worry, doubt, and possibly fear. "WILL I ever go into labor on my own? Maybe there IS something wrong with me?"
I recently watched Pregnant In America. I LOVED all of the wonderful information that they were providing. Studies, statistics ( the list of risks for inductions and epidurals would make your toes curl! ), alternatives. But then, just as I was ready to advertise this movie to every woman I know....the producer's wife ( who had been filmed as she planned a home birth for their first child ) decides to have her midwife strip her membranes at a mere 3 days past her due date. WHAT?!?! Didn't I JUST watch nearly 2 hours of "A woman's body does better in labor when left unhindered." "A woman's body knows just what to do on its own." "Intervention is a slippery slope." - GAH!
There seems to be this idea, even within some midwifery/home birth circles that birth is normal...unless you get to/past 40 weeks. But yet, according to medical literature ( you know, the stuff put out and IGNORED by OBs? ) we know that normal gestation is all the way until 42 completed weeks. WHY are women doing this to themselves, and why are care providers doing this to women?
If I could erase one incredibly WIDESPREAD belief - it would be that a due date is a magical number. A date to count down to, and worry when it passes. A date that will *surely* bring us baby, because isn't that what it's supposed to do?
Will we ever get back to the belief and knowledge that our bodies know just what to do without inducing, augmenting labor?