10.18.2010

The 10-Month Pregnancy - It's Not Just For Whales Anymore

The Globe and Mail published an article recently about a group of people advocating that the normal, healthy gestation period for a pregnant woman be officially acknowledged as 10 months, and not 40 weeks (or 9 months, which every woman that has gone full term knows is bullshit).

Two things surprised me about this article: 1) that this is seen as a new and controversial idea, and 2) that people still believe that, left to its own devices, the human (female) body is not to be trusted.

I feel confident speaking on this topic as I am an expert. Yes, I am. I am a woman that has had 4 pregnancies and two babies, one of whom was born at home, the old-fashioned way, and one that was forced from my uterus in an operating room, after deciding that 9 days overdue was the perfect time to turn sideways. I went past 41 weeks with both my babies, and know that home or hospital, unaided or about as intervened as it gets, pregnancy and birth can only be regulated to a point.

See? Expert.

Here’s something else I know: Just because you say I’m 40 weeks does not mean that I am 40 weeks. Hospitals, doctors, science and policies can get it wrong. My pregnancy with my daughter came approximately 3 ½ weeks after my miscarriage. Menstruation had not started again, so I could not pinpoint a date of conception. I was sent for an early ultrasound, the results of which stated that I had conceived February 14, and that I was therefore x weeks and x days pregnant.

Except, that’s not when I had conceived.

The report insisted that yes, that was when I conceived, but I can assure you, it was not. I can assure you because it was Valentine’s Day on the 14th, and to be very frank, we did not have sex on Valentine’s Day, 2007, and that is kind of easy to keep track of. I believe that my daughter had been conceived about a week earlier.

Pushing the ‘normal’ gestation period to a more fluid 10 months, allows the body (and the baby) to do a bit of self-correcting and deliver when ready. Does this mean that, left to its own devices, every birth will be safe and perfect and healthy? Unfortunately, no. But if you are getting the amazing care you should be getting *cough*midwife*cough*, than you are seeing your caregiver regularly throughout your pregnancy, and your appointments get even closer together once you hit 38 weeks. If you are receiving adequate care, then most of the time, you will know how the pregnancy is progressing. Most of the time, you will know if there is any reason that your pregnancy should not be allowed to continue on past 40 or 41 or 42 weeks safely.

My first daughter was born at 41 weeks, 1 day, and weighed 7 lbs, 7 oz. My second daughter was delivered via c-section at 41 weeks, 2 days, but who knows how much longer she would have stayed in on her own accord? And according to my calculations, she was actually one week older than that. My second daughter also weighed 7 lbs, 7oz.

Some babies want to show up at 38 weeks, and we consider that normal, full-term, healthy. So why can’t we go the other way? I’ve heard of hospital policy dictating inductions at five days overdue and c-sections at seven. If there are no complications, than I counter those policies with a hearty WTF, and suggest that, if pregnancy and birth are merely a numbers game, than perhaps we should be looking at this new one with some seriousness.

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15 comments:

  1. I read a book, maybe the happiest baby on the block? That suggested humans should have a gestation period of 12 month, because at 3 months the baby is way more human. They stop that colic stuff, they smile, their eyesight gets better.. blah blah.
    they basically said that we had evolved so they could survive, but outside because our bodies just can't handle fully cooking them.
    Like kangaroos, you know? Where the joey crawls out and hangs out in the pouch to grow?
    We just don't have pouches.


    My daughter was 3 weeks early and over 8 lbs. It will never be a science!

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  2. Agreed. My doctor suggested induction at 37 weeks with my son because he was estimated at 7.5 lbs, and she thought that was a healthy birthweight, so why not? Yes. SHE. Sigh, anyway, we fought for three weeks, I said no, she kept pushing... finally 1 week past my estimated due date, I was just tired of being pregnant, so we went for it. It was a normal vaginal delivery, but I did come away from the experience wondering why my physician seemed to distrust my body so much. The fact that induction was being promoted three weeks before I hit the 40 week mark kind of bothered me. Actually, it still bothers me.

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  3. blah, blah, blogOctober 18, 2010

    Faiqa - actually, that is now going to bother me! That's atrocious.

    Here, here, k-girl.

    Only 5% of babies arrive 'on schedule'. 80% are born between 38 - 42 weeks. So why not consider (at a minimum) 42 weeks to be the beginning of 'over due'? Especially for first time mothers who tend to have longer pregnancies?

    It continues to frustrate me that biomedicine affords a woman's birth experience so little regard.

    Comparing birth #1--transfered into obstetric care and induced early--to birth #2--at home with midwife arriving with 5 minutes to spare--I can tell you that induction makes for a difficult and uncomfortable experience.

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  4. You know what drives me nuts? Counting to 40 from roughly two weeks before you are even pregnant! Maybe we should just start counting to 40 from when you actually become pregnant?

    Also this - every Scottish person I know has gone well overdue, sometimes as much as 3 or 4 weeks. one of my friends (also Scottish) "had" to have *all four* babies induced because of this schedule we seem to be hewing to. Why would it not be accepted by oh, say, number three? that she just took a little longer and that's how she is?

    Bizarre.

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  5. I was induced a week late with my 1st, and though I was concerned re: higher chance of c-section, etc. I did it with no regrets. Frankly, at 9lbs, I'm glad I didn't go any further.

    My doc said they tried to conduct a study of just letting women go past their due date, but they had to stop it because too many babies were suffering from meconium. She may or may not have been just blowing smoke. At any rate, I'm grateful for two healthy kids, and two *relatively* easy deliveries.

    **Note: My 2nd was a fast, no-time-for-epi screamfest, and I'd take a do-over for a pain-free induction w/epi any day. My recovery was worse w/2nd because I found it so traumatic. OK, I'll stop rambling and shut up now!

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  6. I just like remembering both your births!
    Tracy

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  7. I have not yet seen a due date. My first child was born too early, at 34 weeks. My second child, at a very reasonable 39 weeks, 5 days. After my first experience, I can tell you that given the choice, I would far rather carry a child for 42 weeks than 34. No contest.

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  8. I totally agree. I was 12 days late with my first and he was 8 lbs and my second was 9 days late and weighed in at 7lbs 6 oz. I am currently pregnant with my last one and when people ask me when this baby is due, I add 2 weeks to whatever number of weeks I am officially considered due as I know I will go late and this is my norm. I'm also really glad that my *cough midwife cough* lets me go 14 days late so it meets my bodies/babies needs. I've heard that in France there are some that will let you go to 44 weeks....11 months of pregnancy? Now THAT would be a revelation to me ;)

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  9. Auntie JennoOctober 19, 2010

    The Goddess that was my mid wife 12 years ago before it was regulated here in B.C. asked me at my first appointment when my due date was according to the Dr. I saw. Then she added 2 weeks and wrote that down. My daughter was born 5 days after that.(at home, no complications)And only 5lbs 14 ounces to boot.

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  10. I'm 100% with you. I calculated my own timeframes and, it turns out, I went into labor on my calculated due date, not the one assigned to me. Go figure. Next pregnancy I'm going to straight up lie lie LIE to the caretakers - be they midwives or MDs.

    It's so terrible that we've allowed women to become so afraid and mistrusting of their own body/pregnancies. So so sad.

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  11. Women should be allowed to gestate as long as they like.
    That said, I've got a firm bias towards being under 40 weeks as I seem to know a large number of the statistically unlucky.
    I don't know what the true stats are, but a friend whose first child was overdue ten days and died told me she would never go more seven days overdue. The risk goes up .001% she said. I'm pretty averse to being the one, so that, of course, had a huge influence on my decision making.

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  12. Neither pregnancy would either GP in two different countries listen to me when I said I had 31-34 day cycles. Which, hello, affects due dates. I knew when my kids were meant to be born. At least it meant the first time I knew to be a bit worried he was coming early (ok, only like a week or so, but still), and the second time, that he was 10 days late, and I was ready for an induction, my decision. Yep, bodies, they are amazing things, especially when they work correctly.

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  13. Kittenpie, I actually thought the count started at conception until I got pregnant was told differently. It really makes no sense to count from the last period to me.

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  14. Olivia, that is because most women don't know when they ovulate but most do know when their last menstrual period was. I agree though, it should be 42 weeks from your period, not 40, that the EDD is set.

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  15. My cycle is notoriously irregular and so when I was given the estimated due date of June 15th 2010, I didn't put much stock in it. I chose not to have ultrasounds done either since my pregnancy was a breeze and there were no issues that needed diagnostic tests so it was never 'confirmed'. So when my son decided to be born on the 20th of June, at about 42 weeks, it only confirmed that conception dates are inaccurate, and that's normal. Only babies really know when they're ready and they show it by beginning the labour process. In my opinion anyways.

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Talk to me.