Remember at the beginning of your pregnancy when your doctor told you your due date? That date is merely an estimation based on the first day of your last period.
Hence, there’s a massive chance that this date could be slightly off.
For one, your cycle may not always be regular. For another, ovulation doesn’t always happen at the same standard time every time you have your period. And yet another reason is that babies don’t all have a set time when they’re ready to pop.
As such, you’ve got up to a 5% chance that your baby will be born on the due date. Even still, we refer to the time before that magical date as early, while anything after is perceived as late.
What Does Early Really Mean?
Early is actually premature. So unless your baby was born before 37 weeks, she’s not technically early.
What about late, then? That’s after 42 completed weeks of agonizing pregnancy.
And here’s the kicker…babies decide when they want to come out.
When I found that out, it made so much sense. After all, both of mine arrived at 38 weeks. And naturally, my youngest, who wants to always be like her sister, just had to follow suit.
Joking aside, babies’ lungs develop until they’re ready. Then they send a chemical signal, and that sets labor into motion.
Why Your Baby Might Come Before the Due Date
It was once assumed that all women had a 28-day cycle. But now we know this is not the case. We also know ovulation can occur sooner or later than what was initially thought.
The invention of ultrasound was also used to help measure the baby and calculate the due date. While it is much more accurate, there’s still some work to be done.
Because, honestly, the date your baby is born is a crapshoot. You can guess all you like, but that baby is not coming out until she’s either good and ready or the doctor induces labor.
I’ll add a third one…she’s not coming out until your scheduled c-section if you have planned it.
What Would Make a Baby Come Early?
When it comes to an early baby, as in premature, there usually is something abnormal behind the cause. Most commonly, this is seen when you have multiples. Infections and chronic conditions are other reasons your baby could arrive earlier than 37 weeks.
Chronic conditions that are not under control, like high blood pressure and gestational diabetes, aren’t the only things. If you smoke, use drugs, or are letting yourself get too stressed out, these things can do it too.
How to Tell If Your Baby Will Come Before or After the Due Date
As long as you’re having a healthy pregnancy, there’s really no reliable way to predict whether your baby will be born by a certain date. You can’t tell by how your bump looks or any other silly little trick, though it might be fun to guess.
That baby will come out when she’s ready to come out. But you can probably get an inkling that she’ll be making her way out of your uterus and into the world with these common signs…
You’ll begin to flashback to when you got your period before getting pregnant. This pain is often low in your pelvis near the pubic bone, where you will find the cervix. Pay attention if you have cramping here.
- Loss of Mucus Plug
You may see a pinkish-hued, snotty-like mess when you go to the bathroom or in your underwear. That’s the mucus plug, and once it comes uncorked, that means the baby will come soon.
- Your Back Is Killing You
You’ll likely chalk up back pain before birth as another pregnancy symptom. In fact, you probably won’t realize this was a clue until after you have the baby.
- Your Water Breaks
It is rare for your water to explode everywhere, like in the movies before you have a baby. Seriously, it’s so rare it’s hilarious that every movie with pregnant characters has this happen. Generally, contractions come first, or a small leak may happen where it will trickle out rather than gush everywhere.
Incidentally, you should know that if you leak this amniotic fluid, it’s normal if it is clear or even a light color, like a straw. But you must contact your doctor immediately if it is yellow or green or smells foul.
- You Start Getting Contractions
You should pay attention when Braxton Hicks contractions show up, as the real ones will be happening sometime soon. The real one will become regular, get more intense, and become closer together, so whip out your watch and see if you notice a pattern.
If you get up and walk around and they disappear, it’s Braxton Hicks.
In short, you may miss the signs your baby is coming. Coming before the due date may or may not happen. Even your doctor can’t tell you that. Just be ready for go-time, whenever that is!
Leslie Berry lives with her husband and two young daughters in Los Altos, California, where she loves helping other moms get comfortable with motherhood and embracing the insanity with facts peppered with laughs.
She loves eating too much sushi, exercising, and jamming out on her Fender. Read more about Leslie here.