For the majority of pregnant women, their calculated due dates denote more of a thereabouts timeframe than a definite day on which to expect those first pangs of the birthing process. (In fact, only five per cent of babies are born on their actual due date!) But some new research may give mothers – and medical professionals – a little more control over the perinatal phase, by helping to better predict baby’s arrival.
In a study published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, researchers examined whether measuring cervical length can be an accurate indication of when labour will begin.
Examining 735 pregnant women (with one baby in the head-down position), results showed that when the cervix measured more than 30mm at a woman’s due date, she had a less than 50 per cent chance of delivering within a week. But if the cervix measured 10mm or less, the chance jumped to 85 per cent.
“We are hoping that these new transvaginal ultrasound cervical length checks would become routine, just once, at around 37 to 39 weeks,” senior author Professor Vincenzo Berghella tells Fit Pregnancy.
“There is no standard for routine digital cervical checks at present,” he says. “There are several advantages, not only social, but also medical, like being able to better plan (whether or not to have) an induction.”
A further study published in the journal PLOS One revealed how the body knows when to start delivery. Researchers at The University of Texas Medical Branch discovered certain cell markers – the telomeres – that occur as a woman begins labour. Based on the study’s findings, it’s believed that these cells could be telling the baby that it’s time to make an exit. “We know that DNA from the baby and the placenta is released into the mother’s blood all the time. So we assumed that if the baby is to send a signal to the mother that it is in trouble and needs to come out, the telomeres would be good candidates,” explain lead author, Assistant Professor Ramkumar Menon and co-author, Professor George R Saade.
But unlike the transvaginal cervix checks, more research is needed.
Still; both studies, and those like them, should go a long way to helping avoid some pregnancy complications – and more effectively prepare for the possibility of others. And of course, having a more specific date to mark in your calendar can be especially handy in getting your hospital bag packed in time – or that all-important babymoon booked.