“When are you due?” How do you answer this question?
With a single date, a week window or even more vague?
The politics, the science and the cultural weight of the “due date” escapes no pregnant mum.
The other issue is the due date is also a holy grail for your care providers. This statistical little figment that is plastered all over your notes is so ubiquitous that it’s not possible to think anything else other than this one date in the calendar.
Here is the real low down on when will your labour actually start.
It’s your baby that will determine the start of your labour. The foetus’ lungs are filled with fluid when in the uterus and in order for the lungs to be able to successfully breathe in air, it will need to open and close without collapsing when air is drawn out. The fact that our mature lungs do not collapse in on themselves when we exhale is due to a funny soapy protein that the cells within the lungs create. The new born can only start to create this special surfactant protein from around approximately 36 weeks onwards. This is also the reason why it’s so challenging for premature babies to breathe.
Once this protein in created in the foetus lungs, it signals the maternal system to initiate labour. The early signs of labour is a reduction in the anti-inflammatory hormone progesterone. Progesterone is what keeps your pregnancy and a drop in that hormone is a signal towards birth. Since birth is a stress response created by your body, less progesterone helps in establishing this process.
So when the cocktail of baby hormones, mother’s hormones start to align, then birth initiates. For some women it starts around 36 weeks for some it could be a little later than 42 weeks. It’s a range and if you bear this range in your mind whilst letting people know when your time is due, then you will not feel the pressure of this ridiculous one single day that is in your notes.
Keep calm, keep relaxed, listen to your birth preparation audio guides and baby will let you know when she/he is ready to breathe freely without your help in the big world.