Why the Gestational Timing of Your Baby's Birth is Important
"When is your due date?"
"When are you due?"
"When will you be 40 weeks?"
Phrased differently, these 3 questions are asking the same thing - when will you be done with your pregnancy and when will your baby be here? As any mother who has had a baby knows, the odds of your baby being born on their "due date" is very slim. There is approximately a 5% chance of your baby being born on 40 weeks gestation! Having a birth window or a frame of time to be due is more correct. The range of full term gestation ranges from 38 to 42 weeks, which is a month of time. That's quite a difference in time, compared to a single day!
While mothers definitely get more antsy as they approach the 40 week mark (and as a mom who thought she was nearing the 42 week mark, I understand the mental gymnastics of waiting for labor to start), it's worthwhile to understand why labor happens when it does. Obviously there are medical situations and emergencies that cause labor to start earlier than full term, but in a healthy pregnancy, the labor process is triggered some time between 38 and 42 weeks for several very specific physiological reasons.
There is a hormone cascade that is triggered once the baby's body registers that it has reached it's developmental readiness. The mother's body begins the labor process thanks to this hormone cascade, involving a combination of cortisol and oxytocin. Artificially inducing the hormone cascade using Pitocin (the synthetic form of oxytocin) will lead to the delivery and birth of your baby, but pushing the timeline up can sometimes have ramifications. Earlier deliveries (usually prior to 37 weeks) can result in babies possibly needing more support, like oxygen or short stays in the NICU. I have heard of inductions going well for the mother and baby, and I have heard of inductions that resulted in multiple interventions due to complications with the mother's body and fetal distress.
Going past 40 weeks doesn't mean your baby is "overdue". Each baby has their unique needs and development, and labor will be started when the mother's body and the baby's body communicate that it is time. Your body is intelligently designed and most of the time we just need to let Mother Nature take over and do what it needs to, instead of rushing things along on our own timelines or our practitioner's timelines.
The female body is designed to carry and deliver a baby. It may feel like you are never going to go into labor once you get to the 40 week mark and start creeping towards 41 and 42 weeks, but trust me, you will! Trust your body's ability to do what it is designed to. Trust in your capabilities. Trust your baby. Turn inward to your own feminine intuition and know that by 42 weeks you *will* have your baby in your arms.