It’s easy to look at your due date as a definite, especially if it’s been the same date you’ve had your eyes on for the past 8+ months, but we now know that most babies aren’t born on their due dates, but rather earlier or later – sometimes much later. Being pregnant past 40 weeks can be difficult, but a woman usually isn’t considered post-term until she’s past 42 weeks, so it’s sometimes not until then that a doctor or other healthcare provider might consider inducing.
After 40 weeks
The time to start considering induction varies, of course, from provider to provider and mom to mom, and many women are induced around 40 or 41 weeks for different reasons. However, even if they don’t elect to induce, many healthcare providers will begin more strict monitoring after 40 weeks. This may also include a non-stress test around 41 weeks to check on the baby’s heartbeat and other health information. They’ll also check your amniotic fluid level to make sure that there’s still enough. Based on the results of these tests, the healthcare provider may suggest inducing or waiting.
Though some providers don’t consider induction until after week 42, oftentimes, if labor has not begun by 41 weeks, other healthcare providers will induce. If your cervix has already begun to dilate, odds are the induction will be successful, and you’ll be able to deliver naturally. Sometimes, however, a C-section may be necessary, especially if the baby grows too big.
Risks for post-term baby
There are a number of conditions that are more likely to affect a post-term, or even post-due date baby. These include:
- Too big for vaginal delivery
- Low amniotic fluid levels
- Decreased placental performance
- Pinched umbilical cord
- Meconium aspiration
These conditions and more can make it likely that induction will be necessary as you move past the 40-week mark.
Remember though that every woman, and every pregnancy, is different. Some women, especially those who are older, may be advised to induce even before the 40-week mark, while for some (first pregnancy, history of late babies), having a baby born past their due date is almost expected.
It also depends on your healthcare provider, as midwives tend to wait a bit longer before inducing in the hopes of a natural labor and delivery. As the days pass, you should open up the dialogue with your healthcare provider about when to induce if labor does not occur on its own.
- “Pregnancy and birth: When does labor need to be induced?” NCBI. US National Library of Medicine, NIH, Mar 2014. Web. Accessed 6/28/17. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072754/.
- “Inducing labor: When to wait, when to induce.” MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Jun 2017. Web. Available at http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/labor-and-delivery/in-depth/inducing-labor/art-20047557.