When you’re pregnant, you may find your due date has come and gone and still no sign of a baby. Being overdue can certainly be uncomfortable and worrisome.
Although many babies are born exactly to the day that the OB-GYN predicted, the calculation of a due date is actually nothing more than an estimate of 40 weeks, the length of time of an average pregnancy. It’s important to realize that your due date doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby will arrive on that exact date. Instead, it serves to tell you an approximate date of when you should expect to give birth. In normal pregnancies, a baby is not considered to be late until more than two weeks past the due date.
Why Would You be Overdue?
While most women will deliver by their due date, there are several reasons that a pregnancy is likely to go past the expected due date. This stage of being overdue is also known as a post-term pregnancy and can occur for the following reasons:
• Central nervous system abnormalities
• A previous pregnancy was post-term
• Maternal obesity
• Your due date was incorrectly calculated. This is often due to confusion regarding the first day of your last menstrual period or the due date was established after a late ultrasound that took place during the second or third trimester.
• Sulfatase deficiency in the placenta.
Can Being Born Late Hurt the Baby?
Naturally, as a mom, you are going to have some fears when the baby is late. Giving birth more than two weeks past your due date can carry certain risks. Generally, a pregnancy lasting beyond 41, 42 weeks of gestation can carry some additional risks. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), a number of health risks are associated with post-term pregnancy. These potential problems include:
- Fetal Macrosomia; this occurs when an infant is born weighing over 8 pounds, 13 ounces. Delivering a large baby may lead to childhood diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome. This may require a C-section for proper delivery.
- Placental Insufficiency; this occurs when the placenta is unable to deliver proper oxygen and nutrients to the infant, leading to oxygen deprivation.
- Meconium Aspiration; the breathing in of amniotic fluid and meconium (newborn feces) shortly after birth. Although rare, this can lead to oxygen deprivation, lung inflammation and infection.
- The level of amniotic fluid may have decreased
- Fetal distress, such as a slowed heartbeat
What Happens When You’re Past Your Due Date?
There are several things that may occur when you’re overdue. Generally, what to do depends on your original due date and the health of the mother and of the baby. Your doctor may choose to induce labor once you are past one week late to give birth or may choose to wait a bit longer to see if you can naturally go into labor. If you are induced, your doctor may administer oxytocin, a medication that causes the uterus to contract and pushes you into labor. Some expectant mothers also require a cervical ripening agent before being given this medication.
No matter what the case, the doctor will continue to examine you approximately two times per week to ensure that the baby is doing well. In addition, you may undergo one or more of the following tests:
- Examination of the cervix to determine whether it has dilated in preparation for labor
- Measurement of amniotic fluid
- Non-stress test using a fetal monitor to check baby’s heart rate
- Ultrasound to see the baby’s growth and movement
It’s perfectly normal to feel stressed when your baby still hasn’t arrived and you’re past your due date. However, to avoid unnecessary stress and strain, the best thing to do is to relax as much as possible and stay in contact with your doctor. If your doctor tells you the baby is still healthy, it’s safe to wait to give birth. There is also the possibility, to stimulate labor naturally. Special teas, homeopathy and acupuncture can be as helpful as hot baths and sexual intercourse.
Related Content: The Benefits of Delayed Cord Clamping
In the past, the common practice was to pass Dad the surgical scissors and have him perform a quick snip just before the newborn babe was whisked away to be cleaned, measured and dosed with vitamin K. Any delay in cord cutting was viewed as unnecessary in promoting general health for the baby or mother. However, recent research suggests that a delay of even three minutes can have a significant positive impact on infants.