Should Doctors Do Away With Delivery Dates?

In two stories reported by the November 20, 2001 Reuters Health service and the December 2, 2001 ABC News Service the basic question is asked, "With only 5 percent of babies arriving on time, should doctors do away with the due date"? These stories reported on an article that appeared in the December's Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In that journal the author, Dr. Vern Katz, of the Center for Genetics and Maternal Fetal Medicine in Oregon, says that 95 percent of women deliver outside of their due date. He therefore argues for the removal of the term and concept of a "due date."

In his article Dr. Katz maintains that the concept of a due date is erroneous. He says it only leads expecting parents to feel frustration and anxiety about the health of their baby if the mother doesn't deliver "on time." He further says the calculations used by practitioners to set the date are flawed. "Predicting a due date based on the woman's last menstrual period is simply not accurate", he says. "How often does conception occur exactly 14 days to the minute after the last menstrual period?"

Dr. Benjamin Sachs, a Harvard professor and chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston prefers a different approach to predicting deliveries, "An assigned week of delivery may allow women to be calmer", he insists. Sachs also noted that rates of inducing labor in the United Sates have "skyrocketed because of the due date issue." Going to a "week of delivery" may even do more good than just calming nerves, says Sachs. "It may allow biology to take its course a bit more."