The Due Date - That special date when you get to meet your precious new born child!

This will often be one of the very first things you will found out following a positive pregnancy test and it's the first thing people want to know when they discover you are pregnant.

It's a date that women think of with great excitement in the beginning, and towards the end of the pregnancy it torments them because it either feels like they'll never reach it or they have to deal with disappointment when they go past that date and are still pregnant. It's a date even other people put a lot of stock in, and harass the poor mother with phonecalls and sms's asking if she's had the baby yet once that day draws close or passes!

So what is a due date?

Human females have a gestational period of anywhere between 38 to 42 weeks. When you are given a "due date" this is actually whatever date you will reach 40 weeks of gestation on. Most people think that going past this date is considered being "overdue" when it is perfectly normal to continue growing your baby until 42 weeks. Going past 42 weeks is therefore overdue - and the closer you get to 42 weeks, and if you go past it, the number of risks to the baby increase.

How accurate is a due date?

There are a number of ways to determine a due date. It is calculated from the first day of your last period, as this is when the egg that is eventually fertilised about two weeks later starts to form. If you have a regular cycle and know exactly when you ovulated and even when the ovum may have been fertilised then your due date may be a fairly accurate calculation. However, every woman grows a baby at her own speed which is why you may go into labour any time between 38 to 42 weeks.

Another way of determining the due date of a baby is by assessing it's grown through an ultrasound scan. During the scan various measurements are taken, such as diameter of the skull, length of the femur etc and a calculation is made which predicts the stage of development of the fetus. From this stage of development the number of weeks until fully developed is calculated and a due date is given. Although the technology can be good predictor, it's interesting to note that twins are often given different due dates based on scan information.

Midwives often measure the size of your bump from the public bone. Each centimeter is equal to one week of gestation eg. 30cm from pubic bone to top of your bump would equal 30 weeks. This isn't really used to determine a due date, but instead it is relied upon to ensure that the baby is growing continuously.

What happens if I'm overdue?

The risks of going beyond 42 weeks are that the placenta will not be working as effectively and the baby will have grown quite large, possibly making a vaginal delivery more difficult. If you have reached 42 weeks and have not gone into labour you will need to discus your options with your care provider. Some Doctors will refuse to allow you to go past 40 weeks in some cases, and those that allow you to go as far as 42 weeks will almost definitely insist on induction or a c-section at that point.

If you go past the magical due date, try to remember that only 3% of women actually go into labour on that date, and that in most first pregnancy's you are more likely to deliver closer to 42 weeks. It can be really frustrating for the mother, and especially so when people start wanting to know why the baby hasn't arrived yet. There is a very simply solution that can help the mother keep people from nagging her, and also help her psychologically if she goes beyond the due date. The trick is, right from the start, to consider your due date to be 42 weeks. So whatever date your doctor or midwife gives you, just add two weeks to that and give that as your due date to friends and family, and focus on that yourself to help avoid disappointment. :)