There are a lot of questions that pregnant women hear, especially if they are nearing their due date. The problem is mom has very little control over when the baby will arrive, and if she is already overdue, these questions will seem unnecessary and intrusive.
Why do some women go into labor early while others keep waiting until long after the due date has passed? The answer is complicated, but there are often signs that a woman isn't going to deliver on time. What's important is that she understands the imprecise method of issuing due dates.
Fit Pregnancy points out that due dates are an estimate, not a guarantee. A doctor makes a best guess based off of when mom's last period arrived combined with ultrasounds that take place throughout the pregnancy. Though this sounds effective, it's still just an estimate.
Women also used to carry babies much longer without post-term panic occurring. While today policies have been put in place to keep eager doctors from inducing mom before the 39 week mark, it used to be totally normal for women to pass the 40 week mark date and keep going. Even today it's normal for a woman who is pregnant with her first child to not go into labor until around the 41 week-mark, that is if her doctor doesn't demand induction.
Even with all of that in mind, moms still want to know what the chances are that they are going to be overdue. Everyone is eager to meet the baby, but when will he or she arrive? Look for these signs to figure out if you're in for a long wait.
20 This Is Your First Delivery
A woman who has never given birth before doesn't really know what to expect, but it's safe to say she should expect a long wait. A mom who is pregnant with her first child is more likely to go past her due date than a mom who has experience in the labor department.
Of course it's possible for a first time mom to deliver early or on the due date, but being a first timer is a risk factor for passing the 40 week-mark. Women left alone to deliver their first child will, on average, deliver around the 41 week and one day mark according to Fit Pregnancy. Some will even go longer than that without there being any problems with the baby or the pregnancy.
It could be that mom's body just doesn't know what to do yet, but first time moms are stuck pregnant longer than those who are on subsequent pregnancies. Women who are not on their first pregnancies tend to deliver at just over the 40 week-mark, shaving days off of their waiting time.
It's important for first time moms to raise any concerns they have with their OBs or midwives, but most of the time the wait is just part of the journey. Enjoy those extra days of nesting and napping before life changes forever.
19 Carrying A Boy?
Boys and girls are different, and that starts as early as pregnancy. A publication on Parents cited a study that suggests boys are the ones who are late to the party when it comes to birth. They are more likely to go over their due dates and keep moms waiting.
Other scientific studies have also not been kind to boys. Daily Mail tells of how one study shows that baby boys have more complicated deliveries that lead to an increase in risks for everyone. Women carrying baby boys are more likely to need a C-section, and they may need forceps or a vacuum to assist the baby in exiting the womb. Fetal distress is more common when mom is having a baby, and mom is more likely to need help inducing contractions to encourage the little man to launch.
Do baby boys who stay in too long get too big for the birth canal? Is there something that predisposes boys to hang out in the womb longer, treating it like their own personal man cave? Researchers confess that they don't have all the answers on this one, but if you're having a boy, it's best to settle in for a wait.
18 The Baby Hasn't Dropped
Everyone has heard a mom say she felt when her baby dropped. This does not mean the baby literally dropped right out of her body. It means the baby drops lower into mom's pelvis.
Healthline reports that this is often called lightening, and it is a sign that labor is looming.
The problem is that lightening can be tricky. If a mom's baby hasn't dropped, that doesn't necessarily mean she will be overdue since the baby dropping can take place right before labor occurs. However, since many women feel the baby drop days or weeks before labor, it's often concerning for the mom who does not feel this change. The baby needs to make an exit, and dropping is one of the first steps leading down that road.
Signs lightening has occurred include feeling like you can breathe easier but that you have to pee even more often. Women often feel pressure in their lower body that is more pronounced than it was before, but they get some relief from feeling like the baby is sitting on their lungs.
When dropping doesn't occur, don't panic, but be aware it is a prerequisite to the baby arriving. It's not great if mom is already overdue and the baby is still riding high.
17 Mistake: Too Much Bed Rest
It's not recommended that mom get involved in extreme weight lifting or preparing for a marathon while pregnant. It is recommended that mom stays active throughout her pregnancy unless a medical reason keeps her from it. Shying away from exercise and embracing the vision of sitting around while eating ice cream for every meal may mean a high price to pay. A sedentary lifestyle while pregnant may mean being pregnant even longer.
Healthline reports that studies exist showing exercise is good for pregnancy and labor. Women who exercise regularly throughout pregnancy are more likely to avoid a C-section, which is a major surgical birth. These women also have better labors, and not a ton of exercise is required for these benefits. Small amounts of consistent exercise are enough.
Women who try to induce labor will try crazy things, but it's not at all crazy to try exercise. Another study showed that among natural ways to induce labor, exercise topped the list of successes.
Yes, it's tempting to sit on the couch and just wait it out when we are carrying a little human inside of our bodies, but if we want to meet our baby sooner than later, staying active may be the key.
16 You Have Zero Contractions
Women often spend the majority of their pregnancies dreading contractions. Will they hurt? Will mom be able to handle the pain? When will they start? Once mom passes her due date, her feet swollen, her back sore, and her arms aching to hold her baby, those contractions don't sound so bad.
If mom is not having contractions, labor isn't on the horizon. Though Braxton Hicks contractions, often referred to as practice contractions, don't mean labor is starting, they are at least a sign that mom's body is up for a practice round. The absence of any sign of contractions is a problem.
Contractions may just feel like pressure or a tightening at first, but they increase in frequency and intensity, leading to pain with smaller breaks in between for mom to catch her breath. Doctors may try to get contractions started by sweeping the membranes or recommending natural induction methods if mom's body won't start on its own.
Contractions are essential for labor, so a woman who is coming up on the 40-week mark and hasn't had to endure the pain of contractions will likely not be going into labor on time. It's possible, but this is one stepmom can't skip during the birthing process.
15 Your First Pregnancy Was Late
The good news is that if you're not a first-time mom, you might not carry as long. The bad news is you might. In fact, delivering a child past the due date is actually a risk factor for having another pregnancy go post term.
Why? There's no for sure explanation. It could be that whatever kept mom from going into labor earlier the first time happens again. It could be those pesky genetics. It could be that being overdue with one pregnancy causes mom to stress about being overdue again, and stress is a risk factor that can increase mom's chances of going past the due date.
Whatever the issue, it's not safe to assume that every pregnancy will be the same or that every pregnancy will be different.
Babies tend to show up when they feel like it, and perhaps tardiness is an issue for some families more than others.
The best, and most difficult, thing a mom who has already been overdue can do is not think about it with the next pregnancy. Falling into the stress loop is a trap that can make things worse. Let each child arrive when it's best for them, and don't count down the due dates or assume your body will know better what to do this time.
14 It's Still Plugged In
There's this handy dandy little thing called the mucus plug that is essential while mom is pregnant but must go when the baby needs to exit.
The mucus plug blocks the cervix so no harmful bacteria can get into the baby. It's a good thing, but most women look forward to losing it because that's supposed to be one step closer to labor. The mucus plug coming out means the baby has dropped and the cervix should be getting softer, two things that need to happen before labor starts.
The problem is that the mucus plug can grow back. Mom's body is smart, and if her baby still needs protection, her body will make more mucus and cover the entrance to the cervix again. The other issue is that some women who don't lose it as the 40-week mark nears start to panic, and understandably so. It's possible for a mom to lose the mucus plug right before she goes into active labor, but most women lose it days or weeks before. No mucus can be a sign that mom's body is not ready to go.
OBs and midwives will often sweep mom's membranes, an uncomfortable procedure meant to get labor started. The mucus plug could come out at this point, but if mom's not ready to labor, it will simply grow back.
13 Mistake: Too Much Stress
It's counterintuitive to tell a mom who is overdue to not stress, but it really is sound advice. Stress can affect mom's body, even her ability to go into labor on time.
According to the website Woombie, stress can cause mom's body to stall labor until mom is ready to move forward. By sending out fight or flight messages, mom's fear or stress can keep her body from moving forward in the birthing process. Even simply stressing about being overdue can stall the baby's birth.
This doesn't mean mom should ignore all fear or stress or pretend it doesn't exist. Addressing concerns throughout pregnancy is key. Being mindful of the emotions that come up and dealing with them will allow mom to release the stress and let her body do its work.
Once labor starts, stress can still stop labor. That's why some women make it a long way into labor only to have their bodies stop progressing. Release that fear and be free.
If mom knows she's a worrier or is an overly stressed person, she needs to find ways to manage this issue before the last trimester. She needs to be as chill as possible as the due date nears.
12 You're All Dried Up
There are a lot of myths about the water breaking. When mom's membranes rupture and the fluid from the amniotic sac starts to leak or gush out, this is called water breaking. In the movies it's a huge pivotal moment that always comes before contractions and is super messy. In real life, that might not be the case.
Mom can be in active labor without her water having broken. In fact, many women don't cite the water breaking as their first sign that labor was imminent. Still, some women do experience their water breaking before labor occurs, and this is a sign that the baby is getting ready to make an entrance.
If mom's water hasn't broken, it's not a cause for panic. However, the closer mom creeps to her due date the more her health care team is going to be looking for signs that the baby wants to exit.
Once the water breaks, the baby has to come out because the environment in the womb won't stay good for the little one much longer. Doctors may even break mom's water to try to convince her body to start the labor process, but this only works if mom's body is truly ready to labor.
11 Grandma Delivered You Late
If you arrive late, don't expect your little one to be prompt. A mom who stayed in past her due date shouldn't expect a baby she carries to arrive right on time.
This could have to do with the possible genetic connection. If mom's mom delivered her late, then mom is likely to deliver late. Hormones could be to blame, or just plain hereditary issues, but if overdue pregnancies are a tradition in the family, then it's possible mom will be waiting for her little one awhile.
The good news is that knowing this will keep mom from counting down until her due date, setting herself up for disappointment. It's possible the baby will come before or on the due date, but it's entirely possible that mom will have a child who mimics her own birthing habits. That's called payback, and there's no guarantee that mom's mom will have any sympathy if she was crazy overdue.
Take long walks, nest, and relax. Stressing out or focusing only on how overdue you are is not going to help the situation. Also, remember that mom arriving late does not guarantee her child will be. It just ups the chances. Babies make their own decisions about when to arrive.
10 No Cervical Changes
The cervix needs to stay closed while mom is pregnant, and when it starts softening or dilating too early, women are usually put on bed rest or in the hospital. However, mom wants that cervix to ripen and dilate when it's time, and that should start towards the end of the third trimester.
Cervical dilation is not an exact science. Some women dilate to a two and stay there for weeks while others dilate to a two, progress to a ten in a matter of hours, and deliver the baby. How fast or slow mom's cervix is dilating doesn't tell the whole story, but dilation and softening, also called ripening, should be starting to take place as mom's pregnancy comes close to the 40-week mark.
An OB will often check mom at the appointments that occur later in the pregnancy to see if changes in the cervix are taking place. Some women opt not to have these cervical checks so often to decrease the risk of bacteria entering the body, but many women want them so they can feel like their bodies are making progress. When a woman is at the 40 week-mark and her cervix doesn't seem to be getting the message, there's a chance she will be overdue.
9 Mistake: No Bedroom Lovin'
In some women, pregnancy brings out the lovin' feelings. In others, not so much. Gaining weight, peeing all the time, and watching her feet swell may not put mom in the mood for love. However, skipping bedroom activities may actually keep mom pregnant longer. The same activity that got my pregnant can help her get the baby out.
Doctors and OBs often recommend hitting the sheets as much as possible as mom's due date nears.
Though there's no firm evidence that sex induces labor, especially if mom's body isn't ready, doctors and moms everywhere swear by it.
Babycentre UK says the reason it may work is threefold: orgasms can prime the uterus for action, semen contains prostaglandins which can soften the cervix, and oxytocin can be released during sex. Oxytocin is a hormone that aids in contractions, so it's helpful to have it coursing through mom's veins if she's hoping to labor.
There are women who are told to avoid sex while pregnant, and it's because they are at risk for pre-term labor. For every other mom, light the candles, turn on the soft music, and get busy. Avoiding sex can mean being pregnant longer, so sex is worth a try.
8 Wait... When Did You Get Pregnant?
Most women do not know exactly when their child was conceived. Women who are planning their pregnancies usually have some idea of the conception date, but it's still a guess for most women.
Since a due date is just an estimate, a woman who isn't sure when she conceived is likely to receive an estimate that is off the mark. This is also true if mom can't remember when the date of her last period was since doctors use that date to predict a child's birth.
Because of these variables, many women assume they are overdue when there could just be a miscalculation of the due date. While sonograms can help estimate the date a bit closer, they are not full proof. Basically, many women may zoom right through a due date and assume they are overdue when that due date wasn't even real.
It's good to work with an OB or midwife who is willing to acknowledge that human error is real and can be a major cause of stress for pregnant women. If there are no major signs that a woman is overdue, such as placenta issues or other end-of-pregnancy issues, then it's okay to ask the healthcare practitioner if the estimated due date might be the problem.
7 No Pain, No Gain
Yeah, sure, there's those women who say labor wasn't painful. Some describe it as simply uncomfortable while others use words like exhilarating to describe pushing a baby out of their bodies. However, for most of us labor is pain. In fact, that's how we know we're going into labor.
Contractions, stomach pain due to bowel issues, and feeling nausea are all common signs that labor is coming. That's why the absence of these signs and any form of pain is not great. A woman is usually not going to feel 100 percent before going into labor, and her body sends some pain her well for preparation. No pain equals no baby for most women.
That's right, mom needs to look forward to mind-numbing contractions and wondering if she is getting the flu. It's not fun, but many women feel excitement as the pain starts because they know it's leading to something. Sitting around waiting for contractions that never come can be worse than contractions coming five minutes apart.
Don't panic, but pay attention for signs of tightening around the middle, diarrhea, or lower back issues. These are all signs that something is changing in mom's body, and that change could lead to a baby in the near future.
6 No Urge To Nest
It's just an old wives' tale, but many women say the urge to start getting ready for the baby was the beginning of their path to labor. Sure, mom and dad register for gifts and prepare the nursery, but towards the end of the pregnancy, many women report a strong desire to prepare even more, and this may give them energy they didn't think possible and keep them up until all hours of the night.
Not all women nest, and that doesn't mean they won't go into labor. The evidence for nesting being a prerequisite to labor is anecdotal, but many women swear that after folding baby socks, sweeping the kitchen, finishing 12 loads of laundry, and cooking two weeks worth of freezer meals, contractions came on strong and their was no turning back.
Mom shouldn't stress if nesting doesn't happen, and she also shouldn't assume because it does that she is going to go into labor.
However, moving around and getting some physical exercise is a good idea for most women hoping to go into labor, so some practice nesting couldn't hurt. At least she will be ready for the baby's arrival, whenever that may be, and that's always nice.
5 Mistake: Ignoring Family History
Like it or not, genetics play a role in our kids' lives. Everyone knows we past down genes that determine risks for certain diseases, but people often forget that our genetics can even affect a child's birth.
A mom whose mom delivered late will likely deliver late as well. Again, researchers aren't sure why, but due to how prevalent this connection is, genetics seem to be an obvious culprit. Having a gene doesn't mean mom will suffer the same fate, but it does put her at a higher risk.
In this case there is nothing to do about the situation except try to relax and lean into to the moment. The baby will come when he can or when mom's baby finds a way to evict him, and mom can spend her time waiting bonding with her own mom. She can ask for advice about how to pass the time or let mom come help her with nesting projects as they discuss the struggles of carrying past the due date. One day mom may be discussing these same issues with her own daughter. It's the circle of life, and some times it means waiting around until the next generation decides to enter the picture.
4 Bowels Seem Normal
Who knew mom would look forward to bowel movements, even going as far as to hope for diarrhea? An overdue mom likely will because frequent bowel movements may be a sign that labor is starting.
Sutter Health explains that mom's body releasing stool is a smart move. It's a way for the bowels to clean out before birth begins. In fact, many women think they are falling ill when they suddenly can't get off the toilet, but most end up realizing their bowel movements are accompanied by tightening or pain and they put the pieces together.
A bowel movement does not have to occur before labor. We've all heard the stories of the women who poop during labor. However, landing in the bathroom before labor is pretty common, so if mom does not feel an insane desire to go number two, she's likely not close to labor.
It's strange what you look forward to when pregnant, right? Contractions, poop, and mucus plugs falling out. All of these things lead to labor, and the absence of them can be a real problem. Don't curse the stomach ache that causes you to use all the toilet paper. Be stressed when the desire to go doesn't come.
3 It's All About The Genes
Call your mom and ask her when she went into labor to get a glimpse into your delivery future. Whether we like it or not, those of us who have family members who delivered their babies past the due dates are more likely to carry past the due dates ourselves.
What to Expect reports that the reasons for this are a bit complicated. There may be a hereditary link that causes a woman who was overdue herself to carry a child past the due date as well. This implies that a genetic component could be to blame.
However, there's also the issue of what qualifies as overdue and how much technology has changed. Our moms delivered us before ultrasounds were super accurate, so they may not have been overdue but simply told they were. On the flip side, a woman may have been very overdue decades ago but the doctor didn't address this as a problem. Women tended to go over their due dates and that was expected, not alarming. Now women are likely to be induced before the 40 week mark even arrives.
Basically, ask mom if she carried you long. If the answer is yes, understand that science says you may be at an increased risk of going past 40 weeks as well.
2 The Doctor Gets Involved
Midwives and OBs see a lot of pregnant women. They aren't experts at predicting who will go into labor on time, but they do see enough women to know the signs of a pregnancy that may go past the estimated due date. If an OB or midwife wants to start talking about interventions, mom may want to be prepared for a longer pregnancy.
Interventions, such as the sweeping of membranes or induction of labor by breaking the water or offering Pitocin, are usually considered when the doctor doesn't think the baby is going to exit without encouragement. It's true that some doctors just jump the gun and try to force mom's body before she's ready, but others only consider interventions because they believe they will be necessary to evict the baby.
Mom needs to know she has a say in interventions. If she doesn't want to start that process and the baby is safe where he is, she can ask for more time to see how things play out. If her due date has been miscalculated or if she is one of the women whose baby just wants to cook a little longer, then there's no need to evict early.
1 Mistake: Too Much Faith In The Due Date
We all grasp onto the illusion of control, especially when pregnant. Part of that illusion starts at our first doctor's appointment when we're offered a due date based off a general calculation and assumptions about how long it should take a child to grow.
It's an imprecise science that has left many women stressed about passing a due date that was not even accurate in the first place.
Holding on for dear life to the due date often sets mom up for disaster. Instead of counting down to one specific day, mom would do better to have a general idea of when the baby is coming. She also needs to remember that when a first-time mom is left to go into labor on her own, she will likely not deliver until around the 41 week- mark, a full week over the precious due date. Some moms even carry longer.
It's also okay to be vague about the due date when talking to others. A favorite question from many is "When is the baby due?" Answering generally relieves mom of the expectations strangers have about her birth. She can say she's due in spring or sometime near May. This helps mom release the idea of a firm date for the baby's arrival, because stressing about that date can actually keep mom from going into labor.