Going The Full 40: What To Do When Your Due Date Has Passed

Everybody has that one friend or family member who is always late to every event, function, or meeting (If you don’t have one, you may just be that friend or family member). Even though I am the perpetually postponed person mentioned above, I am well aware of how inconsiderate and inconvenient tardiness can be.

So how dare your baby-to-be disregard your swollen ankles and aching back and choose to keep you waiting by extending their stay at chateau le womb?

Schedules are made to be kept. Unfortunately, sometimes we have little control over when a person decides to show up—including your baby! The showers and celebrations are said and done, the nursery has been painted and has dried and you’re aching with anticipation (among other things). But what are you to do when your due date has come and gone?

Naturally, the first reaction for many is to worry and wonder if there’s an issue with the pregnancy. Others fret over the fact that all hope for relief from pain and discomfort has been dashed. But with all of the concerns that come along with pregnancy, a late delivery shouldn’t be one of them.

Going past a delivery date is actually quite common and is usually not any sign of danger. Despite all of the advances in modern technology, your due date is simply an educated guess regarding when your baby will arrive. Here’s a list of need-to-know information if you have gone the full forty and your due date has passed.

6 Why Does It Happen?

Shockingly, only five percent of babies are actually born on their due date because due dates are dates are simply estimates or educated guesses. Because of this, a woman isn’t considered overdue until at least two weeks past her expected date of delivery. One of the most common reasons for delayed delivery is that the exact date of your menstruation is either unknown or incorrect.

Also, if this is your first pregnancy and labor, you’re more likely to deliver past your expected due date. Not only is the average first pregnancy 41 weeks, but a pregnancy is actually considered “term” anywhere from 37-42 weeks. Many of the factors contributing to carrying past 40 weeks are factors that are not within your control such as having a prior pregnancy that was overdue, having a family history of overdue pregnancies, and carrying a male fetus.

If you’re like me, the thought of not being in control is enough to make you itch, but at least one cause of delayed labor can be controlled and that is obesity. Though weight is probably that last thing you want to think about, it can significantly have an effect on many aspects of your pregnancy and delivery.

Obesity is a significant (and difficult) problem in itself, but it can also cause labor complications including extended due dates. A study in 2010 found that more than a third of obese women had their labor induced, compared to just over a quarter of women of normal weight.

With all of the uncontrollable variables that can cause delayed labor, it’s important to control what you can, and when all else fails, relax. Going the full forty and beyond is often very common and unavoidable.  

5 Consult With Your Doctor

So your baby has gotten too comfortable to move. Now what? Once your due date has come and gone, it is important to stay in close communication with your physician or medical professional. Not only are their risks associated with extended pregnancies (those that go more than 42 weeks) but your doctor will also want to monitor you to discuss options for labor, whether it be natural or induced.

You doctor will check for complications such as preeclampsia (high blood pressure) or fetal distress. By continuing to track your baby’s heartbeat through ultrasound and electronic fetal monitoring, your doctor can observe your baby’s movement and measure the amount of fluid in the amniotic sac to ensure the safety and health of your overdue tenant.

In addition to health precautions, your doctor will also determine if your body is preparing for labor by checking to see if your cervix has begun to thin and dilate. You will continue to have check-ups with your physician to determine what to do in the event that you go into labor, and also to determine what to do in the event that your fetus is hunkering down for the long haul.

4 Relax And Take Advantage Of The Time

At this point it may seem like you’re all dressed up with nowhere to go. All of your diligent prepping and planning has been put on hold as you wait with bated breath on your new bundle of joy. What are you supposed to do now? Relax and look at the extra time as a positive instead of a negative.

So many people feel anxiety or stress about the impending labor process, why not use this time to get your emotions in check? Practice your breathing or visualization skills, use positive affirmations to learn to calm yourself, or meditate to make sure you’re in tune with your baby and your body.

Along the same lines, you can use the time to brush up on information with which you’re not quite familiar. Do some research on the labor process, on induced labor, on C-sections, or do your homework and read an article like this about going past 40 weeks of pregnancy!

If the nursery is complete, the birth announcements are sent, and the hospital bag is packed, it is okay to allow yourself to relax.

Enjoy your last moment of freedom because you’ll have plenty of time to worry about your bundle of joy when they arrive. Go catch a movie, enjoy a date night with your friend, or fall asleep on the couch on a lazy day at home. Think of your womb as a free babysitter and find a way to enjoy yourself!

3 Give Your Baby A Little Nudge

Sometimes we all need a helping hand. The same can be true for your seemingly shy fetus. One way to naturally help speed along labor is through nipple stimulation. Nipple stimulation involves massaging each nipple, including the areola for 15 minutes at a time, continually, over several hours. It is believed that nipple stimulation works by producing Oxytocin, a natural hormone known to induce labor.

Another option that some recommend is the use of supplements such as castor oil or herbs. Castor oil that is either taken by mouth or rubbed on the stomach has been said to cause bowel movements, thereby stimulating contractions. The same stimulation of labor can be brought about by natural herbs, such as black cohosh, blue cohosh, caulophyllum and evening primrose oil.

Lastly, and probably the most fun, is the use of sex to help speed along labor. Semen contains prostaglandins, the hormones that promote cervix dilation and uterine contractions. In addition, when a woman orgasms she naturally produces Oxytocin, the labor inducing hormone. So in theory, the same activity that got you into trouble can get you out of it too!

There are also many other home remedies that have been tried with less success. These include driving on bumpy roads or jumping up and down, eating spicy foods, or prompt exercise. The only outcome you’re likely to achieve from any of this is an aching head or belly. If you’re inclined to try any of the above home remedies, be sure to consult your doctor or medical professional first.  

2 Consider Induction

Your health care professional may initially decide to wait it out, but if push comes to shove your doctor may decide to induce labor. In the field of medicine, particularly obstetrics, inducing labor simply means to artificially begin the birthing process. In most cases, an induction is offered 7-10 days after your due date has passed.

Induction can be achieved through intravenous medication such as Pitocin, by an artificial rupturing of the membrane, or by mechanical dilation. Induction is so common that it can often be considered an “elective” procedure for those who choose to schedule their labor for personal reasons (convenience, scheduling, sweet freedom).

In the case of over-due pregnancies, it is typically considered a necessity as risks to mommy and baby rise as the length of gestation rises. The risks associated with inducing labor are minimal but as with any major decision, talk to your doctor or health care professional about all of your options prior to making a decision.

If you need a day or two to think it over, feel comfortable telling your doctor so. Your healthcare provider should only perform an emergency induction if you or your baby are at risk.

1 What Are The Risks?

While carrying a baby to 42 weeks is common, going past this length of time does carry some complications for both you and baby. First of all, you’re at a greater risk for needing induced labor or a C-section to deliver, which both carry risks of their own. In addition, there are risks for the well-being of the baby.

The mortality rate for delivery past 42 weeks is twice that of the mortality rate for pregnancies that are carried to term. This includes both stillbirths and early neonatal deaths. For babies that survive delivery, they face additional issues such as breathing problems and breathing in the first bowel movement (meconium).

Even prior to delivery, a fetus that remains in the womb past 42 weeks faces some issues, the most obvious being a lack of space. Luckily for you, your stomach isn’t Stretch Armstrong, but for your baby, this can cause issues. The lack of space in the womb means that your baby’s growth can either slow or stop altogether.

In addition, this can cause a drop in the level of amniotic fluid which is needed to surround and protect your precious cargo. All of this can once again lead to the need for a C-section due to your baby’s inability to be delivered vaginally. The final risk of carrying past 42 weeks is placental insufficiency, which is when the placenta doesn’t work as well as it should causing your baby to get less oxygen and nutrients from you.

If this occurs, your baby can show signs of distress such as a slowed heartbeat. It’s important to keep in mind that these risks are associated with carrying past 42 weeks, and not simply past your due date. If you surpass your due date, it’s important to know the risks associated with an extended pregnancy, and to constantly be in touch with your physician.

Just remember, you’ve done 40 weeks already, what’s 2 more? Relax and take advantage of the time by making sure you’re prepared for anything in the upcoming weeks.  

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