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.
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.