When you first see those two lines on a pregnancy test, announcing you’re expecting a bundle of joy, one of the first things you’re going to want to know is when you’re due.
It’s also one of the first things people will ask you when you announce your pregnancy. You can wave them off with a vague “oh, end of April sometime”, but people want the specifics. They want the date.
Which would be all well and good, but the reality is due dates are only estimates. They’re not hard and fast guarantees of when your baby will actually arrive.
How are due dates determined?
In the UK, as with most other developed countries, your due date will be determined by adding 280 day (40 weeks) to the first day of your last period.
Therefore, if your last period started on 1st January, your “due date” would be 280 days later on 8th October.
The problem with this process is that it makes an assumption that a woman’s menstrual cycle lasts for 28 days. If your cycle is slightly shorter, or slightly longer, then you are not likely to have conceived on day 14 – and therefore the dates will be wrong.
This is one of the reasons why ultrasounds are used to date pregnancies. By taking measurements of your growing child, these can be compared to expected standards, and can again help to determine how far along a pregnancy is.
However, the issue here is that average sizes for dates are precisely that – they don’t take account of those who may be slightly smaller, or bigger for any number of reasons.
How accurate are due dates?
The reality is that no matter what method is used, due dates are only meant to provide a guideline of when a pregnancy will reach term. According to research, as little as 4% of babies are born naturally on their due dates, with 20% of babies being born at 41 weeks or after.
It’s easy to wonder why we bother using due dates at all if they’re not able to pin point when labour will start, but the truth is, they are helpful. Due dates are an ideal way to gauge how a pregnancy is progressing, what care both baby and Mum are likely to need, and to help plan when delivery is likely to occur. Equally, if early labour does occur, medical professionals can be prepared with the necessary equipment and treatment to ensure nobody is put at risk.
Should you focus on your due date?
Being pregnant is a bit like going on holiday. As you get closer to the date of departure, you’ll pack a bag. And it will sit there, reminding you that you’re going on holiday soon. The only difference is that here, you don’t know when you’re going to need it.
The date’s not set in stone, it could happen before you planned to go, or it could happen afterwards. All you do know is that in the next few weeks you’ll be off, and come what may, it’ll be one heck of a trip.
The downside of focusing on the due date, and seeing it as something set in stone is that if you are the one in five who goes to 41 weeks (or more) you’re likely to feel frustrated. Every day that passes will be another day you’re stuck being pregnant, and you’re still waiting to meet your little one.
Being heavily pregnant is hard enough, without adding impatience and frustration in to the mix, on top of everything else.
We’d love to hear from you – so head on over to our Facebook page and let us know how close to your due date your little ones were born.