Here in America, induction and cesarean births are big. They happen often, too often, and much of the time it is because a care provider has suggested to a mother that continuing on with her pregnancy past her due date is unsafe. Whether it’s because they are guessing the baby will big (ultrasound size measurements are notoriously inaccurate), the amniotic fluid levels are starting to get lower (this happens naturally at the end of all pregnancies) or they fear the placenta might not be as efficient (this can happen but is rare and typically occurs past 42 weeks, not before), the induction conversation happens for many - particularly for moms seeing OBGYNs.
It’s important to respectfully hear your care provider out. They know so much about your personal situation and should always be the first person you speak to about any health concerns. That being said, they aren’t the be all end all of your decision-making process. Take what they say and think on it. Do your research, talk to your doula or teacher and listen to your intuition. Perhaps something in your heart is telling you that everything is okay, and that gut feeling isn't anything to dismiss.
Here are four reasons why your baby might be overdue that are totally normal.
1. Your due date is inaccurate.
First things first, due dates are no more than estimates of when your body might go into labor, based on the estimated age of your baby in utero. Most babies are born within 10 days of their due dates, meaning anywhere from two weeks before their due date to two weeks after. If, for example, your periods have ever been irregular, if you’ve ever taken birth control, if your cycle is not a 28-day cycle, if you don’t know when you ovulated or if you have any underlying health problems, your due date will most likely be inaccurate. After all, only 5% of babies are actually born on their due date, so don’t become too attached to yours. It could very well be wrong.
2. Mama was recently ill.
Any preexisting or recent health issues (including copious amounts of stress) can easily override the natural interactions between a baby, their mama and the placenta. Hormones are a huge deal when it comes to growing and birthing babies, and any kind of upset to mama’s physical health will in turn upset hormone communication. Be sure to take time to relax and center yourself - it’s more important than you think, and the benefits will carry over into your postpartum experience as well.
3. Your cervix is prepping.
The cervix has to do four very important things before you can give birth to your baby. It has to move forward, it has to ripen (soften), it has to efface (thin, or shorten) and it has to dilate (open) from zero to 10 centimeters. All four of these steps take time, especially for first-time mamas. If your body hasn’t gone into labor yet, trust that it’s not just hanging out doing nothing. There is a ton going on that you simply can’t see or feel - and that’s a blessing in disguise.
4. Your baby isn’t ready to be born yet.
In the final weeks of pregnancy, your baby is experiencing profound growth and development that are key for survival outside the womb. They are storing lots of iron, so much so that when combined with the iron they receive from your breastmilk they will be set for a full six months; they are gaining weight so that it is easier to maintain their own body temperature; their lungs are maturing so that they can breathe efficiently once separated from the placenta.
Speaking of, the placenta is allowing antibodies to reach your baby, antibodies that will protect them from disease when outside of the womb. Additionally, your baby is working to get into the optimal position for birth, and your breasts are working hard to create colostrum to feed your baby until your milk fully comes in about three to four days after birth. Let's also remember that birth is just as much a spiritual occurrence as it is physical. Maybe a bit more has to align before is well and right for the birth of your baby.
There are, of course, situations which do call for emergency induction or cesarean. Because of this, I highly recommend having a copy of Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn on hand to reference throughout your pregnancy. It’s an incredible resource and pays close attention to all of the most common pregnancy and childbirth complications that can arise unexpectedly. Another great resource for information regarding interventions and the evidence behind them (if there is any) is EvidenceBasedBirth.com.
If all is well in your low-risk pregnancy, remember that the more time you allow your baby and your body to get ready, the more efficient both will be at labor, birth and breastfeeding. In the case of pregnancy and childbirth, time is on your side. And a word to the wise: start calling your due date your guess date. You'd be surprised how much pressure disappears with this new way of framing the month your baby will likely be born.