I’ve carried four babies to full-term and passed my due date twice. Those last few weeks with each were brutally long and miserable. Unfortunately, the constant checking-in by well-meaning family and friends didn’t really help my mood or my patience level. But it wasn’t the well-wishes that drove me crazy after I’d passed my due date. It was the ridiculous questions people constantly asked. While I know each family member and dear friend had good intentions, their constant prodding left me feeling more judged than loved and supported: Am I doing enough? Do they think I don’t want this baby to come?! If you hope not to piss off a woman who has passed her due date, never ask the following:
Still no baby?
It seems like an innocent enough question, and you’ll probably get a polite smile and short, sweet response, but really, it’s a silly question with no good answer. Unless you’re dealing with an unusually cheerful pregnant woman (which is a rare thing after 40+ weeks), she’ll probably be running through a lengthy list of snarky responses in her mind, such as “Are you blind?!” and “Would I be here or doing this if the baby was here already?!”
Weren’t you due…?
Seriously, people, stop with the “due date is a blood oath” idea. Less than five percent of babies are born on their due date. Medical professionals refer to an “EDD” (estimated due date) because babies can come any time. Full-term is a range, generally accepted as between 39 and 42 weeks. Most first-time moms welcome their babies after their due date, so let’s stop assuming the baby will arrive on or before that “magic” day. It’s not a package delivery and there are no guarantees.
Have you tried…?
There are a thousand ways one can try to induce labor “naturally,” and chances are, the pregnant woman you’re talking to has tried one or all of them already. From walking to eating pineapple to ripen the cervix to “what got the baby in there,” most pregnant women who have passed their due dates have already explored the options. Unless they specifically ask for your advice, it’s probably best to just leave it alone.
Are you going to be induced?
Induction is so common these days that it may seem like a harmless question. A third of births that reach 41 to 42 weeks result in induction. Despite this frequency, however, induction is a pretty serious medical intervention that involves risks for both mother (increased risk of postpartum depression and up to six times higher chance of a c-section) and baby (oxygen desaturation and significantly more occurrences of non-reassuring fetal heart rates). Induction is a decision that really only needs to be discussed between a woman and her healthcare provider, not every acquaintance she runs into at the grocery store.
Are you ready?
I’ll venture to guess that nearly all women are ready for their baby’s arrival by their due date, at the latest. By the time the due date has come and gone, most women have prepared, and re-prepared, and re-prepared again. Constantly doing all the tasks that she wants done before baby arrives, like having the house clean or the laundry done, can make an expectant mother go crazy as she spends her days wondering how much more cleaning and laundry she will have to do before the baby actually gets here.
What are you doing here?
Clearly, every pregnant woman who is waiting for her baby to arrive should be at home doing…I’m not exactly sure what. Waiting? Driving herself crazy waiting? Wondering when it’s going to happen? Wondering if it’s happening and she doesn’t realize it? Wondering why the hell it isn’t happening? Yeah, no. The best thing a pregnant woman can do while waiting is to keep busy. It not only keeps her mind off the waiting, but normal human activity can also get the baby to actually come.
Are you going to try to have the baby before the storm?
Three of my babies came during hurricane season in South Florida, so I’m no stranger to preparing for delivery and a major storm at the same time. While not being able to get to a hospital during labor because of a natural disaster is certainly a terrifying prospect, bringing it up to a hugely pregnant woman who has probably been thinking about it non-stop is less than helpful. Plus, babies are much safer and easier to manage during a natural disaster when they’re still in utero than after they’re born. So no, I will not “try” to have the baby before the storm. So what should you say? Instead of prodding too much or drawing attention to the obvious, it’s best to stick with a simple “How you feeling?” or “I’m thinking of you” or, most helpful of all, “Is there anything I can do?