The truth about your due date

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People kept telling me not to pin too much hope […]

People kept telling me not to pin too much hope on my late October due date, but I pretty much ignored them. After all, my due date had been calculated by a medical expert who obviously knew a little more about when I was likely to go into labor than my officemate, right? Of course, when my due date—plus another six days—came and went, I had to concede that my due date was pretty much an optimistic estimate.
duedate_calenderIn fact, only about 5% of all babies are born on their actual due dates. Your due date is less about D-Day than it is about tracking the progress of your pregnancy—it’s important for your ob to know precisely how far along your pregnancy is before administering certain tests, but no one can really predict how and when your body will begin labor. And many times, your due date is imprecise because it assumes a clockwork menstrual cycle, which almost no woman actually has.
The vast majority of babies—around 80% (and including my son)—are born within 10 days of their official due date, sometime between 37 and 42 weeks. Another 11% will deliver prematurely, before the 36th week. (Interestingly, women who weigh less than 110 pounds seem more likely to go into early labor than moms who weigh more than 110 pounds, possibly explaining why so many celebrity moms seem to have their babies earlier than their due dates.)
Then there are the babies who opt to arrive fashionably late. For some reason, Caucasian women and moms under 30 seem to have longer pregnancies, and some research has suggested that male babies are more likely than their female counterparts to make a late appearance. Waiting past your due date can be an uncomfortable and frustrating experience, but it’s not that uncommon—and most doctors won’t induce before 42 weeks, even though they’ll be monitoring you closely once you pass your due date.

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