Is your Baby overdue and what should you do?

Just because you were given a due date for your baby’s birth doesn’t mean that baby will come at exactly that date. But we know that an overdue pregnancy can leave you tired and a little anxious.

Remember your due date is simply a calculated estimate of when your baby will be 40
weeks. It’s normal to give birth before or after your due date. In fact, your pregnancy must
continue two weeks past your due date to earn the official label of post term pregnancy.

You might be more likely to have a post term pregnancy if:

  • This is your first pregnancy.
  • You’ve had a prior overdue pregnancy.
  • You have a body mass index of 30 or higher (obesity)
  • Your due date was calculated incorrectly, possibly due to confusion over the
    exact date of the start of your last menstrual period or if your due date was
    based on a late second- or third-trimester ultrasound.

 

How are due dates calculated?

The actual date of conception for a baby is hard to know, so gestational age is the most
common way to calculate how far along a pregnancy is and predict your due date.
Gestational age is measured using the first day of your last menstrual period; 280 days (or
40 weeks) from this day is the average length for a pregnancy. This is your estimated due
date, but the key word is “estimated,” since it’s nearly impossible to predict when a baby will actually be born!

If you have no idea when your last period was, became pregnant while using oral contraceptives, or have extremely irregular menstrual cycles, your Midwife will request an ultrasound to determine the gestational age of your baby. The ultrasound allows the Sonographer to measure the distance from one end of the fetus to the other. During your first trimester this measurement can offer the most accurate estimation of the baby’s age, because all babies grow at roughly the same speed during that time. However, during the
second and third trimesters babies grow at different speeds, so this ability to accurately estimate age based on baby size diminishes.

Whatever the cause, you’re probably tired of being pregnant, not to mention anxious. Rest assured, an overdue pregnancy won’t last forever. Labor could begin at any time. Rarely, an
overdue pregnancy might be related to problems with the placenta or the baby.

How common is an overdue pregnancy?

60 percent of women carry to term and give birth “on time,” which means they’ll deliver on or before their assigned due date at about 40 weeks. But 35 percent of expectant women have a pregnancy that goes longer, into week 41 or even up to 42 weeks, and this is considered “late term.”

Post term pregnancy risks

Research shows that when pregnancy extends between 41 weeks and 41 weeks and 6 days
(late-term pregnancy) as well as 42 weeks or beyond (post term pregnancy), your baby
might be at increased risk of health problems, including:

  • Being significantly larger than average at birth (fetal macrosomia), which might
    increase the risk of an operative vaginal delivery, C-section, or getting a shoulder
    stuck behind your pelvic bone during delivery (shoulder dystocia)
  • Postmaturity syndrome, which is marked by decreased fat beneath the skin, a lack of a greasy coating (vernix caseosa), decreased soft, downy hair (lanugo), and staining of the amniotic fluid, skin and umbilical cord by your baby’s first bowel movement (meconium)
  • Low amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios), which can affect your baby’s heart rate
    and compress the umbilical cord during contractions

Late-term and post term pregnancies can also pose risks, such as delivery complications:

  • Severe vaginal tears
  • Infection
  • Postpartum bleeding

 

Antenatal care with your Midwife, will continue after you pass your due date. During visits, she will check your baby’s size, heart rate, position and ask about your baby’s movements.
If you’re more than one week past your due date, your Midwife might do fetal heart rate monitoring (nonstress test) and an amniotic fluid volume assessment or a combination of a nonstress test and a fetal ultrasound (biophysical profile).

The number of days you’ll wait as your due date has passed, is a decision that’s made between
you and your Midwife. Your health and that of your baby are paramount, so based on any tests that have been run, you and your Midwife can come up with a plan.

Ways to try and bring on labor

If your Midwife hasn’t suggested induction yet, you could try some natural remedies to kickstart your labor. Always get your Midwife’s permission first, and keep in mind that none are
guaranteed:

  • Sex. This one’s the most successful method of coaxing labor along.
  • Walking. While it’s not clear that exercise helps to induce labor, it’s great for your health,
    plus gravity and your body’s motion may help settle your baby down into your pelvis.
  • Evening primrose oil.
  • Raspberry leaf tea.
  • Eating dates and pineapple

 

A word of warning about castor oil to help induce labor: castor oil can lead to uterine irritation
and diarrhoea – so please do not try this old folk remedy.

In some cases, labor induction might be recommended. Labor induction is the stimulation of
uterine contractions during pregnancy before labor begins on its own to achieve a vaginal
birth. If you and your Midwife choose labor induction, you might be given medication to help

your cervix ripen. If your amniotic sac is still intact, your Midwife might break your water by
creating an opening.

If necessary, you might also be given medication to kick-start your contractions. A common
choice is oxytocin — a hormone that causes the uterus to contract.

Whether your Midwife suggests a wait-and-see approach or schedules an induction, stay in
touch and make sure you know what to do if you think you’re in labor.

In the meantime, do your best to enjoy the rest of your pregnancy.

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