Healthy pregnancy: what to expect if you go past your due date
Your due date came and went. Now, you’re wondering what’s next. When you’re past your due date, it can be hard to wait to meet your newest addition. However, it’s important to remember that 40 weeks of pregnancy is only an average. There’s a range of normal when it comes to the timing of delivery.
You may be ready to encourage your baby to make his or her appearance. But, most importantly, you’ll want to follow your OB GYN’s guidance. He or she can help decide when it’s best to wait it out or if your baby needs a little extra help to arrive.
Understanding your due date
Your due date is typically calculated as 40 weeks from the first day of your last period. However, because ovulation and cycle timing can vary from woman to woman, this date may not always be exact. This is especially true in women who have irregular cycles. During one of your first prenatal visits with your OB GYN, he or she may adjust your due date based on measurements taken of your baby on an ultrasound.
In general, the U.S. Library of Medicine says it’s normal for a pregnancy to last anywhere from 37 to 42 weeks. And most women don’t deliver on their exact due date. You aren’t considered officially past due—known as post-term—until 42 weeks.
Myths and facts about inducing labor
If you’re approaching or just past your due date, you may have heard some old wives’ tales about inducing labor. From walking the baby out to castor oil to eating certain foods, there are many tips to bring on labor that aren’t necessarily backed by science.
Some of these methods haven’t been studied. Those that have been studied typically didn’t show a significant effect on causing labor. The American Academy of Family Physicians says you should always talk to your OB GYN before you try any method to induce labor on your own.
Extra tests or monitoring
If you’re past due, your OB GYN may recommend additional testing to check on your baby. This can help determine the right next step. Your OB GYN may check movement, breathing, heart rate, and fluid levels through an ultrasound.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says testing can also include a nonstress test that measures your baby’s heart rate for a specific amount of time. Or some pregnant moms may have a contraction stress test, which monitors the baby’s heart rate during a mild contraction.
Choosing a planned delivery
When you’re past your due date, your OB GYN may decide inducing labor is best for your health or the health of your baby. Some factors in this decision include your age, the size of the baby, your health history, or any signs of potential complications. Your OB GYN may use one of several different methods to help start labor. Some of these include:
- Applying hormones to the cervix
- Using a small balloon device to stretch and dilate the cervix
- Giving a drug like Pitocin through an IV
- Making a small hole in the amniotic sac to “break your water”
If you choose an induction, your OB GYN will monitor your progress and may use more than one method to help encourage labor. While it’s normal to be both excited and nervous about an induction, it’s a safe, routine process. The Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care says most women who have an induction say they would do it again.
Whether you induce labor or give your baby a little more time to come on his or her own, your OB GYN is there help decided what’s best for your health. These extra few days of waiting may not seem quite as big once you finally have your baby in your arms.