How Long Can Pregnancy Last?

Theoretically, pregnancy length is supposed to be between 37 or 38 and 42 weeks on average. You start counting the first day of your last menstrual cycle. Technically, you’re not even pregnant then, but that’s how it’s calculated. Conception is estimated to occur about two weeks after that. However, in reality, you could conceive sooner or later. But since very few people actually know their conception date, the last menstrual cycle is usually used as a more accurate way to determine how far along you are.

Due Dates Are Just Guess Dates

It helps to remind yourself that your due date is just a guess date. While most women deliver within two weeks of their due date (before or after), that’s not true for everyone. Unfortunately, the medical community gets really concerned with anyone going too far over their due date. In fact, some women are coerced into having an induction when they’re only at 41 weeks or even sooner than that. Of course, there are true medical reasons to induce labor, but going past your due date shouldn’t be one of them.

Even a woman who would like to give birth naturally is going to have a hard time saying no to an induction when her baby is late.

  1. The doctor is going to overwhelm her and scare her into having the baby now.
  2. She is probably tired of being pregnant.
  3. She wants to meet her baby.
  4. She doesn’t realize how risky inductions really are.

A woman who is getting induced will hear more about the risks of continuing the pregnancy than the risks of an induction. But if you think about it, how can your pregnancy be that risky all of a sudden? And when did medical interventions such as induction with Pitocin stop being risky?

How Accurate Is Your Due Date?

Let’s say you know the day your baby was conceived. Maybe you only had sex unprotected once during that cycle (when both of you were too lazy to get the condom), maybe you’re really good at keeping track of your body’s signals. Of course, conception could have occurred on that day, but it could also have been five days later. Sperm can survive in your body for a few days. You can calculate your estimated due date EDD (or guess date) by adding 38 weeks to the day you had sex, but it could also possibly be five days later.

That’s pretty accurate. Now how many people know when they conceived their baby? Few do. In fact, some women don’t even recall their last menstrual period. This makes it even more difficult to figure out how far along you really are.

Babies Develop Differently

Even assuming that your due date is perfectly accurate, your baby is not going to be born on that day. Your baby could still be more than two weeks early or late. When you think about how differently babies develop outside the womb, you’ll realize that there’s nothing wrong with them starting to roll over or walk at different ages. The developmental milestones can be really far apart, and that’s not a sign of concern. So why is it a problem when some babies take longer to develop in the womb?

Medical evidence doesn’t really present a lot of statistics on post-term mamas. But that’s because doctors tend to induce before 42 weeks of pregnancy. But however naturally you try to induce labor, it’s still not what your baby wanted. Unless there’s something wrong, there should be no reason to evict him from the womb early. And most women who are induced don’t have 12 lbs babies, quite the opposite.

10 Month Mamas

There are plenty of 10 month mamas out there, but most of them aren’t giving birth in a hospital. When asking around on Facebook groups, I have heard people mention 43, 44, 45, and (yikes) even 46 week pregnancies. According to midwives and doulas, few women go past 44 weeks, but some do, and that’s perfectly fine. Again, there is always the question of getting the due date right, but you also have to allow for the uniqueness of each baby and mama. Here is blog post about a 10 month mama who was happy to wait out her baby if you need inspiration: http://www.birthemissary.com/blog/10-month-mama-patience-in-pregnancy-past-42-weeks

Personal Experience

I seem to be a slow-cooker myself. My third child was born at 43 weeks and 2 days. I didn’t know my conception date, and the due date was purely based on my last menstrual cycle. However, an ultrasound at 20 weeks confirmed the due date (not that it was really necessary to do that). Currently, I’m pregnant with number 4. Today I am 42 weeks and 5 days along. This is also based on my last menstrual cycle. However, according to conception, my due date was only 2-7 days ago, so not that late. I seem to ovulate late in my cycle.

I don’t know whether or not this baby is going to outdo his or her big brother. I would like to have the baby sooner (now sounds great). But unless something is wrong, my baby will get to pick his or her birthday. It doesn’t matter that I’m ready before baby is. If only there was a way to ignore the due date and pretend it didn’t exist…

Update: My baby was born at 43 weeks and 6 days. I almost made it to 44 weeks that time.