This time one year ago I was 40+14 days pregnant. After a rocky road with baby number one's induction at 40+12 I was adamant this time that I wanted to hang on and try to let my body do it's own thing. I knew this baby would be 'late' (I'll come back to this) despite everyone's protestations; 'you never know,' 'this one might surprise you,' 'second babies tend to come sooner.' I just knew. With my first I hadn't shown any signs of labour; no Braxton hicks, no shows, no niggles, two sweeps later and still nada, but I was more than ready to meet baby so agreed to be induced at the standard 12 days post due date. The induction was pretty swift and brutal, and not helped by the fact that the wards were overflowing and understaffed- I ended up being hurried half naked from the antenatal ward to a makeshift labour ward, ready to push. No sink attached to the wall and other equipment hanging off it.. and I hadn't even met the midwife who delivered my baby. Without going into every detail, it was far from ideal- it's a big enough shock to the system giving birth for the first time anyway, but this was far from anything I had envisaged! My first born, Leo, didn't show signs of being 'overdue' or 'late,' and we had a rocky start, with it taking a week and a half for milk to come in, lots of tears- his and mine, and a rough introduction to breastfeeding. I definitely think that induction contributed to these problems- a fully mature baby should be physiologically stable and able to breastfeed well- hormones that surge during natural labour are known to help women cope with pain, as well as helping mother and baby to stay alert and interact well after birth.
As I waddled way past my due date a second time I was more clued up. I'd read more and researched the stats. I knew that most babies weren't 'late' or 'overdue' - 70% of women give birth after their due date. That's 70% of women being asked 'have you had that baby yet?' 'did you try eating curry?' 'pineapple?' 'a long walk?' over and over again. AND YES, WE'VE TRIED IT ALLL. How daft does it seem to expect every woman to give birth exactly nine months and seven days later? This method of dating a pregnancy (based on your LMP) also assumes that we all have a monthly cycle of 28 days and ovulate on the 14th day every bleeding (literally) time. I mean.. really? They do of course use the dating scan to get a more accurate idea of when baby is due, but even then would it not be preferable to have a due window of say three weeks, instead of one little frustrating and mostly incorrect date? Would that not help to take pressure off expectant mums? Only 5% of very, very lucky women actually give birth on their due date- I am SO jealous!
Once you make it to 12 days the pressure is very much on to get that baby out- this is because stats suggest that the placenta and amniotic fluid then begin to decline and there is a higher risk to the baby and an increased chance of stillbirth- frightening stuff. I'm no medical expert (and I wouldn't advise anyone to do anything they were not personally comfortable with), but as I mentioned before, I just knew this baby was not ready. I trusted my body instinctively- I could feel plenty of movement, felt well in myself and all was well with my midwifery checks. I decided that, even though I was SO ready to meet our baby girl, I wanted to wait for her to do things in her own time. My community midwives were fantastic and all said 'your body, your choice,' but it was advised that I get checked every day at the hospital. It turned out that, even though all the checks were fine, this was my undoing- two days later, sick of being sat stuck on monitors for hours on end in uncomfortable hospital beds (I had PGP which is a whole new level of hell and the beds were agony), missing my 21 month old and consultants making it clear that going on any longer was very much against their wishes, I reluctantly agreed to be induced.
The pessary didn't have any effect - 24 hours later, utterly exhausted, still in PGP agony and with the doctors suggesting I stay in another night to be monitored before they did anything else (the hypocrisy- I thought you said this baby had to be outta here?!) I, THANK FUCK (excuse me), went into natural labour. My girl was finally born the next morning, at 40+16 days, showing no sign of being post-dates- she was coated in vernix (which if your baby is truly overdue is scant or missing), had no wrinkly skin and the amniotic fluid was clear. And aside from the pushing stage (her head was 98th percentile, ouch), the labour was a dream compared to my first. When she was born I felt euphoria wash over me- something I didn't experience with my first, and it all felt very different. Although we still had challenges breastfeeding, my milk came in a lot quicker and she was much more relaxed than my first born.
I joked with both births that I had the gestation period of an elephant, but in all seriousness, I think I carry longer than the average, and I'm not alone. There are so many documented accounts of women that have gone well past 42 weeks- just google 10 month mamas and you will find a host of stories and articles. I don't want to sound like I'm suggesting I know better than medical professionals and I would absolutely listen to and want their advice again (except that I'm done cooking babies. No more. Honest). It just frustrates me that with all the wonderful medical knowledge we have and advancement in technology we can't just think outside the box a little more- the stats in regards to overdue babies (that the risk of stillbirth doubles after 42 weeks) comes from a 1958 study when mortality rates were 10 times what they are today. It would be wonderful if women were able to choose what felt right for them and their babies in a supportive environment, without pressure.
If you're interested in reading more on this subject here are a couple of articles I found particularly informative:
I was pregnant for 10 months
Saying no to induction