Unless you've had a history of premature labour, the majority of woman wish to avoid going overdue like the plague. Yes we're blessed, grateful and happy and on cloud fucking nine to be pregnant but generally by your magical mystical due date, and often before, you're fed up. Beyond fed up.
Sometimes we get to 37 weeks and we hear the phrase bandied about that 'baby is fully cooked, you can come out now!' because pregnancy is 'term', yet your due date is a mere estimate, there's no exact science. A healthy pregnancy can go up to 42 weeks (occasionally beyond) Are we to believe that in those extra 3-5 weeks baby is just chilling out in there packing on the weight? Surely that would be utterly churlish of us to presume these weeks are not important. Your babies brain, lungs and liver are still developing at 37 weeks and will continue to do so. They're not 'done'.
Did you know that a baby's brain at 35 weeks only weighs 2/3 of what it will at 39-40 weeks, that's quite a difference.
The problem with statistics is that we can manipulate them to fit to our own agenda. Whilst being petrified of a premature birth we placate ourselves with the rising statistics of survival rates yet there is a darker side to this, as the stats increase week by week many anxious and fed up mums convince themselves that the final weeks don't count. That they're superfluous. That just because babies can survive being born early, that it's okay to aim for that leading to alarming statistics such as that found by an American Watchdog who discovered that 75% of mothers believe 34-36 weeks is full term.
I know the inforgraphic below is American but it does a pretty good job of outlining exactly why you should, if possible, wait until at least 39 weeks gestation, because the last weeks matter.
Yes, generally and statistically speaking babies born after 37 weeks need minimal extra care and I'm sure the almighty internet forums will be full of positive anecdotal stories of positive outcomes, but, they're still developing. Their lungs, liver, brains, sucking and swallowing reflexes etc are immature, they're more likely to have breathing difficulties, may struggle to maintain body temperature and have a higher risk of hearing and vision problems. Unless medically necessary to give birth this early is it fair or even right to voluntarily evict babies this early from the womb? To play roulette with their early days? Many woman who've been through the harrowing experience of having an involuntary spontaneous premature birth would give an arm and a leg to have kept their babies in for as many weeks as possible. Yet in America, up to 40% of deliveries are scheduled pre 39 weeks, for no medical reason with no accountability.
The American college of Obstetrics and Gynecology have redefined 'term' so that 37+0-38+6 is now considered 'early term' with 39+0-40+6 being considered 'term'. *
Granted, over here in the uk, it does seem more difficult to electively give birth without medical reason before your due date. In some parts of the country you can't even receive a membrane sweep until 41+0. It doesn't alter the mindset though ingrained in many pregnant womans minds that because 37weeks is considered 'term', it's okay or even optimal to choose to start the labour process then. That by the magical 37weeks you don't 'need' to be pregnant any longer.
Don't get me wrong, I've been overdue. Twice. The first time by ten days and the second by 3 or 4 (Bad mummy moment, I can't even remember!) So I get it. I absolutely get it. I've been there fat, miserable and uncomfortable scoffing pineapples and curry whilst giving The Husband an early birthday present of offering to 'swallow' to encourage labour. Yet i'd never request an induction before due date at bare minimum. I'll admit with The Preschooler I had a successful sweep at around 39+3 however this was due to high BP and crippling pain from a trapped spinal muscle and SPD and as such was recommended by a consultant.
Sometimes, preterm delivery is unavoidable be it spontaneous labour or a managed medically necessary induction, this post however is about the unavoidable none necessary elective births before 39/40 weeks.
Forget the 37 weeks. Banish it from your mind. 40 weeks is only an extra three weeks, even if you go to 42 it's only an extra five weeks. In the grand scheme of things, it's just an extra month. Your baby is worth it. As ridiculous as it seems when you're nearing term and beyond fed up, one day you'll miss being pregnant.
So sure, try the none invasive old wive tales of natural induction. Have some fun. It really is true that in a healthy pregnancy, baby will only come when baby is ready anyway. If it helps you pass the last few weeks, go for it. Just remember, sometimes your baby simply needs that extra time, to not be rushed and to be 'ready'.