If you find that you are creeping up to your due date, with no signs that labor will happen anytime soon, take a deep breath. A past due date is not necessarily a reason to worry. About half of newborns are “late” arrivals. I put “late” in quotations because the due date is a rough estimate. Or you could say an educated guess! Since every woman has a different menstrual cycle and ovulation, it can be different for each woman. Only about 7 percent of babies are actually overdue. And of those women who are still pregnant beyond their date, many women will go into labor spontaneously between 40 and 41 weeks.
Depending on your unique health and circumstances, your care provider may recommend induction, but many will just advise you on what’s best for you and your baby’s health.
Some Reasons You May Not Go Into Labor By Your Due Date
• First Pregnancy
• Exact date of your last menstrual period was unknown
• Prior overdue pregnancy
• Overdue runs in the family
• Being overweight
What the Doctor Will Look For
Your prenatal care will still continue once you are past your due date. They will watch for signs of complications, such as pre-eclampsia. They will monitor your cervix to see if it is dilating or thinning, as well as closely monitoring your baby. They will make sure your little one has a strong heartbeat and the baby’s movements are still good. The level of your amniotic fluid will also be monitored.
Hitting the 42 Week Mark
If your baby hasn’t arrived by 41 weeks, 42 weeks is usually when most providers will want to have a serious talk about induction.
If you are pregnant at 42 weeks, the once ideal environment might become less perfect. The placenta may have a harder time supplying nutrients and oxygen to the baby. When you go past 42 weeks, it can increase having a c-section or needing a vacuum or forceps delivery.
In most cases, your doctor will look to induce right at 42 weeks or a little before to help reduce these risks. Other care providers will choose to keep a close eye on you and your baby and perform tests to ensure your baby is still thriving in the uterus.
If your health care provider decides to induce labor, you may be given medication to help your cervix soften and begin to open. When your amniotic sac is still intact, they may break your water to help speed get things moving.
You might receive a medication to kick start your contractions like Pitocin, a hormone that causes your uterus to contract. They will start you out on a small dose and then increase it every hour or two, depending on how well the baby tolerates it.
If you’re induced, know you will have the same labor opportunities of doing it on your own. The induction medicine just helps the process start. Some women say that pitocin-induced contractions are stronger than those that begin naturally, while others say they had similar birth experiences as their labors that began without the need for augmentation. Regardless, it is a beautiful experience.
Whether you’re planning to be induced or you’re concerned about what happens if you go beyond your due date, having a strong team in place can make a dramatic difference. Choose a care provider you trust, look into hiring a labor/birth doula, and speak openly about your questions and concerns.
*The information in this post is not medical advice. Please consult your physician or midwife.
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