Right on time

Maybe I’ve heard the new Vampire Weekend single one too many times, but lately the question of exactly when our baby will arrive has been at the forefront of my thoughts.

As much as all my American friends and relatives would love for me to give birth to little “Liberty” on the prestigious due date of 4th July, in reality only about 5% of babies are born on the day given at the dating scan. This date is really an estimate rather than something one would need to worry about being set in stone; the NHS explains that most women give birth during the week before or the week after this date. However, the baby can also safely arrive any time after 37 weeks as this is when they are considered “term” and would no longer be too early. Confused yet?

4th july
(c) Universal Pictures 1989

Upon reaching 41 weeks of pregnancy, an optional “membrane sweep” is offered – this is an internal examination that attempts to stimulate production of natural labour-inducing hormones. If this is unsuccessful, and spontaneous birth hasn’t happened by 42 weeks, the labour may need to be induced. The reason for this is that there are increased medical risks for a very overdue baby, although some babies can be left a little longer and still be born naturally and in good health.

I hope our baby isn’t late as we have a wedding to attend just over a fortnight after the due date. So while the baby will almost definitely have been born by then, the chances of us being able to go will decrease every day past 4th July! I’ve heard that first babies are usually late, but this doesn’t appear to be backed up by any scientific evidence that I can find, and seems rather to depend on genetics and when each unique baby decides they are ready to enter the world…

Even if it means missing the wedding, like most pregnant women I’d rather our baby was safely born late than too early. Babies born before 37 weeks are considered premature or “pre-term” and according to NHS statistics, this happens to one in 13 babies. However, this does include twins and triplets – the average delivery date for triplets is 33 weeks! Babies born before 37 weeks usually have to make up the extra time in hospital, so a baby born at 36 weeks would need to stay on for about a week. And the closer to 37 weeks, the better: a 36 weeker would probably need far less specialist care than one born at, for example, 34 weeks.

Variation from due dates can sometimes have interesting consequences, even if it is just an unexpected birthday. For example, Maryse’s baby was due in March but ended up born on 1st April. I myself was supposed to be a May baby but just pipped it to June. And most life-changing of all, my nephew was due in September but his being born in August meant he ended up in a completely different school year: one of the youngest rather than oldest. And a baby due in late August could easily have the reverse situation happen to them!

I know rationally that it ultimately doesn’t matter at all when our baby is born, as long as they are healthy. But I’d still love to be part of that 5%, if only to give our child some kudos when they find themselves at US passport control!

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