After the news sinks in that the little blue line on the white stick means you are in fact pregnant, your next thought instantly turns to when is my little bundle of joy going to make an appearance. Obviously, Google will know the answer so we get out our phones, answer a few simple questions and are presented with a date. A date that we have no control over. A date when our lives will change forever. A date that we will be counting down to over the coming months.

Everyone asks about the due date, our nearest and dearest set reminders on their calendars, its written on all our medical notes, highlighted and underlined twice, at 12 weeks we are even invited to a dating scan to check the date. The date is important, there’s no doubt about that but if it’s being referred to as an ‘Estimated Due Date’ (EDD) how accurate is it?

Well, the truth is, not very. We still use Dr Franz Naegele’s method of calculation that he publicised all the way back in 1812. A theory based on information found in the bible, that a pregnancy lasts 10 lunar months. More specifically, Naegele’s rule calculates the estimated due date by adding one year, subtracting three months, then adding seven days to the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period. Obviously, the rule doesn’t take into account differing lengths of menstrual cycles, actual conception dates or how long it took for the sperm to reach the egg, which believe it or not can take up to four days!

The Royal College of Midwives states that the average pregnancy lasts anywhere between 37-42 weeks. This means less than 5% of babies are actually born on their due date. For the vast majority of pregnant mums, they either never make it that far, or the date just comes and goes like any other day, except they feel that little bit heavier and they have replied to over a dozen messages with the words, ‘no sign of any movement yet’!

If your Estimated Due Date changes as the result of your dating scan, hospitals will consider the scan date to be the most accurate. It’s important to remember however, that not only are scans not 100% accurate, women are all different and our babies grow at different rates.

The number of days hospitals will be happy for you to go over your due date before they are keen to induce varies from trust to trust, a further indication that there are no hard and fast rules about Estimated Due Dates.

As I approached two weeks overdue with my first child, I was under pressure from my midwives to be induced. Thankfully by 40 weeks + 12 days, I went into labour naturally and my daughter was born at a tiny but perfect 6lbs, 6oz. She clearly was nowhere near ready to make an appearance on my ESTIMATED due date.

If you find yourself going past that all-important due date and you are starting to face pressure from your midwife to schedule an induction, here’s a few things to consider when making your decision:

  • How accurate do you think your estimated due date really is? A few days could make all the difference.
  • What is the hospital policy and how does this compare to the national NICE guidelines?
  • What are the risks of being induced vs. the risks of waiting for labour to start naturally?
  • What are the alternatives to being induced? Generally, hospitals will want to regularly monitor you when you pass a particular date.
  • What is your intuition telling you? Remember, only you know how you really feel.
  • Most importantly, don’t forget that you are in charge of all decisions when it comes to birthing your baby. It is absolutely ok to decline an induction if it is not what you want so work with your midwives to find an alternative instead.

And while you’re waiting, get drinking that raspberry leaf tea, go for a hike and start walking up the stairs sideways. You never know, it might just do the trick!

For more information check out the Born 2 Birth website, www.born2birth.co.uk

Louisa McDonald, Born 2 Birth.