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7 Things to Consider When You’ve Passed Your Due Date

Your due date has arrived. You can almost hear the Price is Right announcer saying, “Come on down! You’re the next contestant on Happy Birthday!” But, still no baby.

You stay close to home, because you fear that your water could break in the mall. So, you go for a short walk, do some light cleaning around the house, then put your feet up and wait. Family and friends are texting and calling around the clock, asking “feel anything yet?” By bedtime, there’s not even a hint of a contraction. I guess your little one didn’t get the memo regarding your due date. What’s going on?

If your expected due date has come and gone, you’re probably becoming very anxious. It’s kind of agonizing because you’ve been counting down to this day, and then nothing happens. It’s like planning a big party, then no one shows up. What do you do when you’re overdue? Don’t get discouraged, and try to calm those nerves. It just means your game is going into extra innings.

You’re flying in a pregnancy holding pattern. “Any day now” is your new mantra. Struggling with patience is a natural emotion. Have faith that something will happen soon. In the meantime, you don’t have to twiddle your thumbs while you sit around and wait. Here are 7 things to consider when you’ve passed your due date.

7 Your Due Date May Be a Little Off

The due date is an educated guess when labor with start naturally. The calculation is pretty simple if you have recorded the exact dates of your last period. The first day of your last menstrual period (LMP) is day one. Add 9 months and 7 days, or 280 days. This forecast assumes that you conceived on the 14th day of your 28th day cycle. If the precise date of conception is known, as you would know with in vitro fertilization, add 266 days to the date of conception.

Another way to figure out your due date is by using Naegele’s Rule. This principle counts backwards instead of forwards to get the same result. Take your last LMP, add 7 days, subtract 3 months, then add 1 year. For example, if your last menstrual period was on April 1, 2015, add seven days to equal April 8, 2015. Then, subtract three months to equal January 8, 2015, then add one year to equal January 8, 2016.

Not many babies are actually born on their due date

If the first day of your last period was a rough guess, your delivery date will be a little off. If your menstrual cycle dates are accurate, conception could still have happened at any time in the weeks to come. Even if you know what day you conceived, the date you’re given will probably not be your baby’s actual birthday. A mere 4% of babies are born on the estimated due date. It’s more of a general idea of when to expect your newborn.

Your due date is best determined during the first ultrasound. The size of the fetus will reveal how far along you are in the pregnancy. Still, the due date isn’t set in stone. About 90% of pregnant women experience spontaneous labor within 14 days of their due date. In any case, the actual day you go into labor will be up to your little one.

6 There's a Reason for Pregnancy Overtime

Sometimes, the hardest part of pregnancy is the wait. Adverse side effects don’t help either. Backaches, swollen ankles, and sleep deprivation may be making your life a little hellish. You’re probably saying “enough already” if your expected delivery date has passed. But just because the due date has come and gone doesn’t mean that your labor is actually late.

The estimated due date is about 40 weeks after your last period. But, the length of all pregnancies are not the same. Every soon-to-be mother and her unborn baby are biologically set for a particular length of pregnancy. Delivery usually happens within two weeks on either side of the due date, with twins and triplets arriving a little earlier. 

Most women go into labor between their 37th and 42nd week of pregnancy. In fact, the medical term for being overdue is “post-term” which does not officially begin until two weeks after your due date.

Calculating your due date isn't as easy as you think it is

The flick of the switch that ignites labor is unknown, but lingering in pregnancy limbo can be explained in many ways. For instance, you are prone to a delayed delivery if you are a first-time mother, or if you’ve already had a baby that was behind schedule. Some claim deliveries after the due date are due to taking birth control pills before the pregnancy, or having irregular periods. 

Overdue pregnancies can also occur because you are having a boy, you’re overweight, or you yourself were born late. The reason could be more simple than that: you may be ready for your baby, but your baby isn’t ready for the world. In the last few weeks of pregnancy, hormonal changes develop the heart, lungs, skin, and other organs your baby needs to survive the outside world. 

Premature babies sometimes need help breathing because of underdeveloped lungs. So, if there are no signs of labor the day after your due date, be patient. You will deliver any day now, and your baby will make his or her debut in good time. Look at the bright side: these afflictions will not last long.

5 A Late Delivery Can Affect Your Pregnancy

Your obstetrician or midwife may want to induce labor at 41 weeks, or they may have a wait-and-see attitude. If you are a couple of days past your due date, don’t expect your doctor to induce your labor right away. Medical professionals become more concerned when your baby is a couple of weeks overdue. Your obstetrician will assume that you are more than ready to have your baby, as most women are in the late stages of pregnancy. 

The question remains, is your baby ready?

The placenta helps to keep the baby alive inside of the uterus. The longer the placenta grows, the more it ages. If it gets old, it can prevent the baby from thriving. If the placenta is still functioning well, the baby may develop too large, making labor and delivery longer and more difficult. After 41 weeks, your health care professional will keep a watchful eye on your pregnancy. 

How much you go over your due date can affect your pregnancy

After 42 weeks, your pregnancy is more likely to have some risks. Because of the increased chance of you or your baby experiencing some type of complication, these types of monitoring may be used:

Non-stress test

An electronic fetal monitor can listen to your baby’s heart rate. This is a non-stress test that assesses the health and wellness of your baby. An irregular heartbeat may signify a lack of oxygen, fetal distress, or another problematic situation.

Ultrasound

An ultrasound uses sound waves (inaudible to humans) to create an image of your baby. This exam determines the baby’s growth and physical activity.

Fetal movements

Even if there are no obvious problems, your doctor will want to make note of fetal movements. You will be asked to:

  • Keep track of the number of times your baby stirs within a specific time
  • Keep track of how long 10 movements take

Every baby has an individual pattern of activeness. Some kick less, some kick more. The activity can also depend on the day. Less than normal movement should be brought to the attention of your obstetrician or widwife.

Less space in womb

A post-term baby may be running out of room in the womb. As your baby grows, he or she will occupy more space in the uterus. At 42 weeks, growth can slow or completely stop because the space in the womb has been maxed out. When the baby gets too big, you will either need a cesarean section (C-section,) a forceps delivery, or the need for other medical equipment during labor.

4 What Happens When Your Water Breaks

You’re in the last leg of your pregnancy journey. From the home stretch, you can see the finish line, even if you aren’t quite there. Because you may be so anxious to give birth, every symptom may be misinterpreted as the onset of labor. Even second-time mothers may be confused if her water is broken or is she’s experiencing bladder leakage. Here’s how to evaluate when to call your doctor, and head to the hospital.

One common worry of pregnant women is not knowing when her water will break. This water is actually a sac filled with amniotic fluid. It protects the baby throughout the pregnancy, and can trigger labor when it ruptures. When your water breaks, you will either feel a gush, a trickle, or something in between.

Every pregnant woman expects a big gush of water because this is what happens in the movies. For the most part, reality is much less dramatic. Only 14% of pregnant women experience that gush in public. Many soon-to-be moms feel a continuous trickle of water, because the baby’s head prevents the water from bursting out all at once.

Your water likely won't be the rush of water you're expecting

If you are being induced, you will experience the warm rush of fluid in the hospital bed after a member of the medical team has popped the bag. This is known as an amniotomy. However, if you are one of the 14% of mothers-to-be, it will feel like a bucket of warm water hitting the floor. With each contraction, more water will drain.

Some women experience a sensation that is somewhere in the middle of a gush and a trickle. This feeling has been described as the gush of a heavy period when you stand up. It’s so heavy, it runs down your leg and you can’t stop it.

If you are on your own, it can be difficult to determine if your sac is torn or if you are leaking urine. If you’re not sure, call your health care provider, and describe the color and the odor. Once it is concluded that your water has broken, labor should be right around the corner. Within 12 hours of the sac breaking, most women feel strong, regular contractions.

Your doctor will monitor you closely, be sure to keep them in the loop

Once your sac has been ruptured, avoid any contact that might admit bacteria into the vagina. If fluid is leaking, do not have sex. Showers are okay, but your doctor may want you at the hospital as soon as possible. The longer labor takes to start, the more risk of infection for you and the baby.

The anxiety may be built, and not knowing when your water will break can test your patience. Take pleasure in your knowledge. Now you are prepared when it happens.

3 Induction May Be Necessary

Sometimes, it’s more appropriate to let nature take its course. In other situations, it’s better to promote labor. For example, the size of the baby becomes a factor after 41 weeks. A big baby can put a vaginal delivery in jeopardy. To avoid complications, induction may be recommended by your health care provider. It is usually recommended between the 41st and the 42nd week of pregnancy. Here are some methods that may get your labor started:

Membrane Sweep

Your doctor or midwife may perform a membrane sweep to activate a natural labor. During this procedure, a gloved finger is inserted into the cervix, which is the neck of the womb. Carefully but firmly, the finger sweeps the lining to detach the cervix from the membranes around the baby. The bag of water is also separated from the lining of the uterus. This procedure produces hormones that increase your chance of labor to trigger within 48 hours.

Amniotomy

To bring on labor, your obstetrician or midwife might burst your amniotic sac. Also known as breaking your water, the bag is torn with a thin, plastic hook. The sac will gush warm fluid when it breaks open.

Pitocin

This liquid medication is a synthetic form of oxytocin, which is a natural hormone. Pitocin can help speed up labor by contracting the uterus.

If induction is necessary to lower the risk of complication, there are pros and cons to consider. Ask your medical team about methods that are appropriate for you and your baby.

2 A Caesarean Section May Be Necessary

If you are expecting, a vaginal birth is probable. Yet, if you are weeks overdue, your baby may be too big to deliver naturally. With this and other cases, a cesarean birth (also known as a C-section) may be necessary.

A C-section is when a baby is brought into the world through an incision in the mother’s belly and uterus. Once the cuts are made, you instantly go from being a mother-to-be to being a mother. The procedure takes about an hour. Dissolving stitches are used to repair the incision in your uterus, and sutures will seal the tissues of the abdomen.

During labor, your medical team may discover that the baby’s head may be too big to safely descend the birth canal. If your baby is too big to be delivered vaginally, a C-section may be scheduled. In most cases, the mom-to-be can be awake through the surgery, and spend time with her baby soon after delivery. Recovery for a C-section will require about a three day stay in the hospital.

You may not have planned for this, but you'll just be happy to have your baby in your arms

There are risks associated with C-sections. While it happens every day, C-sections are in fact invasive surgeries. The complications for mother and baby may include:

  • Internal bleeding
  • Infection
  • Harm to the newborn during surgery
  • Longer recovery than a natural birth
  • Injury to mother’s internal organs
  • Risk for pregnancies to come

Discuss your birthing options with your obstetrician or midwife during your next checkup. They can figure out if you may be a candidate for a C-section.

1 How to Cope After weeks

The end of pregnancy is near. Whether you are scheduled to be induced, or you and your doctor decide to play the waiting game, enjoy whatever time remains of your pregnancy. Since you’ve got some time on your hands, appreciate the quiet time and babysitter-free moments. While you’re in for some downtime, consider these options:

  • Take as many pictures as you can of your pregnant body. Savor the memories of the last days of pregnancy.
  • Don’t be afraid to leave the house. Get out for a walk, or visit family or friends, but don’t go too far.
  • Keep your hospital bag in the car. That way, if you go into spontaneous labor on the road, you won’t have to return home to get it.
  • Precook meals, let me cool, then pack them in the freezer. After delivery, you’ll be thankful for ready-to-eat home cooked meals that just need reheating.
  • If repeated phone calls and text messages are getting on your nerves, let your family and friends know you will call when anything happens. You can also pre-record a voicemail message to let every caller know your labor status.
  • Nap as much as possible. Getting plenty of rest will build up your energy reserves for labor.
  • Hang in there. Most likely, you did not expect to be pregnant after your due date. It’s okay to feel a little down in the dumps. Write down your emotions to get them off of your chest.
  • Decide how you are going to send out birth announcements.
  • Take advantage of this time to see a movie, or go out to dinner.
  • Be cautious using home remedies to induce labor. Some strategies listed on the internet are fun, but some can be damaging. Check with your obstetrician or midwife before administering alternative treatments.
  • Keep in contact with your medical professional. Close examination will be necessary until labor and delivery. If you experience any signs of labor, don’t be afraid to let them know.

Don’t sweat your due date if you and your baby are healthy. Try to relax because it’s okay to wait. The anticipation seems endless, but in no time, you will be holding your beautiful baby.

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