As you near your due date, the long wait to see your tiny bundle of joy becomes all the more unbearable. The panic meter shoots up when your baby does not appear on the expected scheduled date. The day just passes! Generally babies are born between 38th to 42nd weeks of gestation period (pregnancy). If the baby is not born by 42 week of pregnancy, he /she is regarded as post-term or post-dated for birth.
The due date of delivery is calculated from the first day of your last menstrual period. The due date depicts the day when you are likely to have birth or when the labour pain might set in. Usually a pregnancy lasts for 40 weeks but if it extends beyond 42 weeks, the pregnancy is termed as prolonged pregnancy. Most women deliver the baby either one week earlier or one week later than the normal pregnancy timeline of 40 weeks. If labor does not kick start by the time you complete 40 weeks. Your obstetrician will ask you for induction of labour if the pregnancy extends beyond 42 or 43 weeks. This is primarily because of the increase of the threat of stillbirth or fetal distress especially in primigravidae or the women having their first child.
What Can Cause An Overdue Baby?
The true cause of babies arriving late in the world is not known. However some points are believed to be responsible for post term babies:
- If you are pregnant for the first time
- You are not sure of the exact date when your last menstrual cycle started
- If you have a history of post-term births in the past
- If your mother, sisters or aunts have delivered overdue babies (family history of post term deliveries)
- If you were born as post-term
- Your baby is a boy
- You are obese or overweight
Plausible Problems With Overdue Babies
The post-term babies might face the following problems:
- Respiratoy problems in neonates
- Slow or retarded growth in babies-intrauterine growth restriction or IUGR
- Placental failure
- Breathing of meconium-the first fetal bowel
- Decrease in amniotic fluid- the fluid that protects the fetus
- Need for forcep delivery or LSCS because of the big baby size
What Can Be Done If My Due Date Passes Without Delivery?
Here are a few things that should be done while waiting for overdue pregnancy:
- Carefully watch your pregnancy: Antenatal care will continue after you exceed your due date. You will be monitored for appearance of any complications such as PIH or pregnancy induced hypertension. You internal examination will be carried out to assess the condition of the cervix such as thinning or dilatation. Baby’s movements and heart beat is heard on every visit
- Ultrasound scan: Ultrasound is safe and done to find out the amount of amniotic fluid and baby’s movements. It is also helpful in visualizing placental condition and its location in the uterus
- Push your baby: Prolonged pregnancy can be dangerous as the amount of amniotic fluid decreases and due to insufficiency of amniotic fluid the umbilical cord is compressed during uterine contractions. The aging of placenta adversely affects the fetal ability to survive in uterus. Post term baby is likely to inhale first stool or meconium. This can result in many breathing problems and can affect the baby’s survival
- Induced Labor: To avoid these complications, your doctor will advise you to go for labor induction. Medicines are placed in the vagina to soften the cervix and facilitate its dilatation. Labor is induced by intravenous oxytocin drip and the frequency of its administration is adjusted by the doctor. The bag of waters or bag of amniotic fluid if un-ruptured till now is broken by your obstetrician. As the sac opens you will feel a sudden gush of warm water. Read more about inducing labor here
- Membrane Sweep: Your doctor may offer you a ‘membrane sweep’ at your 41st week and 42nd week appointment. It involves the stimulation of the vaginal cervix so as to induce hormones that can trigger labor
How Can I Stay Calm?
You have crossed 40 weeks of pregnancy and you might feel disappointed and even frustrated but try to be composed and avoid being panic. You might be feeling you have had enough of a pregnancy and would want the baby out. However, you will need to hang in there as yet, and enjoy the last 1-2 weeks of pregnancy.
- Rest and sleep: Take rest and sleep whenever you get time. Utilize the time by addressing birth announcements and thank you messages
- Give finishing touches: You can check your nursery for anything that you might have missed, or anything that you may feel would serve purpose after the baby arrives
- Stock on food: You can check your kitchen and make a list of things that you need to buy in advance. Make sure all your grocery items are well stocked and there are some ready meals in the freezer
- Wardrobe check: Check your closet and keep the clothes you will wear for another one or two weeks on top shelf. This will save you from unnecessary hassle after childbirth
- Go out: You can plan going to a movie with your spouse and can even have dinner with friends. There is no reason to refrain from social activities. Just be careful while climbing stairs or using escalators. You will miss this time once the baby is born, so enjoy your pregnancy!
- Be wary of ‘natural remedies’: Lot of people and internet sources would suggest you numerous ways to induce labor. Do check with your doctor first before resorting to any of them
- Set up voicemail and social media status: If the numerous calls from well meaning people regarding the birth are bothering you, you can put up your social media status as ‘patiently waiting’ which would send the message to your friend
- Trust your doctor: Your doctor knows what is best for you and the baby, so trust him and be co-operative
Be calm and composed during this extra period of wait and watch! You will be soon blessed with a baby that will keep you on toes with his/ her round the clock schedule.