You have waited 40 long weeks to have your baby. You are ready to be done with pregnancy and meet your little bundle of joy. But your due date comes and goes and there is no baby. And then another week passes…and there is still no baby. By now the joy of pregnancy has probably worn off and you are more than ready to have your baby. You may begin to wonder if your pregnancy will ever end!
Although most of us focus on our due date, you have to keep in mind that it is really only an educated guess. It is completely normal for a baby to be born either before or even after his due date. In fact, that is why a term pregnancy is considered anywhere between 37-42 completed weeks.
But what happens if your pregnancy looks like it may actually go past 42 weeks? A pregnancy that lasts more than 42 weeks is considered post-term. We don’t know why some women (about 3-12%) have post-term pregnancies. Frequently, it is because their dates were miscalculated.
Some other reasons you may have a post-term pregnancy include:
• First pregnancy
• History (personal or family) of prior overdue pregnancies
• Baby is a boy
Rarely, overdue pregnancy might be related to problems with the placenta or the baby.
As your pregnancy continues past 40 weeks, it is important that you keep going to your prenatal care appointments. If at any time it looks like the baby or you may not be as healthy as your health care provider would like, or you show no signs of going into labor on your own, your health care provider will begin to discuss inducing labor.
You may not want to be induced and you may prefer to let nature take its course, but remember that there are things that your health care provider needs to consider. Your baby will continue to grow, so his size may become an issue. The volume of amniotic fluid may begin to decrease and the placenta may start to age and not work as effectively. This can put your baby at risk for complications. And there is an increased chance that your baby will inhale meconium (fecal waste) during delivery which can cause breathing problems or an infection after birth. Remember that the goal of managing a post-term pregnancy is to prevent complications and deliver a healthy baby.
If you and your health care provider do decide that inducing labor is best, there are different methods available. You can discuss which option is best for you with your provider. There may be some risks associated with inducing labor, but there are also risks to allowing a pregnancy to continue for too long. Make sure you talk to your health care provider—she will weigh the risks and benefits and together you can decide on a plan that is safe for both you and your baby. And once your baby is born and in your arms, the long, long wait will be a distant memory!