Going Past Your Due Date: What Now?by Katlyn Joy
So that magic date circled on your calendar so many months ago has arrived and passed without the arrival of the much-anticipated bundle of joy? You have probably endured countless, "Are you still pregnant?" and "Shouldn't you have had that baby by now?" You have awakened to every hiccup and gas bubble as if it was the start of contractions. You monitor every little change in your body to determine if this is the big day.
While you might not feel like hearing it right now, you're not that unusual and you're certainly not alone. An estimated 5-10% of pregnancies go past 42 weeks. And of those, 95% of deliveries occurring between 42 and 44 weeks go smoothly and without serious complications or concerns. So you can relax.
Why Women Go Beyond Their Due Dates
Often it's suspected that the due date was inaccurate to begin with. This will be especially likely if the mother's menstrual cycles were irregular. Going past the due date is also more common in first pregnancies, those carrying baby boys, if you've had a pregnancy in the past that lasted longer than the due date, or it can run in your family.
What Your Doctor will Do
Expect your physician to make you be faithful in your daily kick counts, and to report any problems or concerns promptly. Expect to be given some signs to watch for that might indicate a problem, such as symptoms of pre-eclampsia like blurred vision, sudden swelling especially of hands or face, and headache.
Your doctor will most likely do some electronic fetal monitoring, checking to see how baby reacts to his own movement, and monitoring during contractions to watch baby's heart rate. A sonogram will most likely be performed to check baby's size and how much amniotic fluid is present.
Essentially your health care provider will want to make sure baby is still thriving and doing well, and that you are capable of delivering the baby at the size she is now.
The baby can grow too large for mother to deliver vaginally resulting in a cesarean section. Sometimes a placenta will begin to deteriorate which means reduced oxygen and nutrients being delivered to baby. A decline in amniotic fluid can result in a pinched or prolapse of the umbilical cord. Fetal distress may occur, and older babies are more likely to have a bowel movement which may lead to inhalation of meconium, the waste material, which may cause breathing difficulties or infection after birth. However, the overwhelming majority of late babies are born just fine.
What You Can Do
Keep a kick count daily and be aware of signs of impending labor, like cramping, back discomfort, diarrhea, or increased Braxton hicks or regular contractions. Learn about induction techniques and what to expect if you may require a C-section.
Get that nursery ready, but don't overdo it. Have some helpers who can also help distract you. Use other distractions like going to the movies, short walks, or visiting with friends.
Get those thank-you's or announcements all ready to go. Double check your labor and hospital bags. Don't forget batteries for the camera!
Relax. Your baby will be here in mere days!
If Your Doctor Must Induce Labor
Your doctor may try breaking your bag of waters first. This is done by inserting a crochet-hook type needle and snagging the bag. This will result in a gush of warm amniotic water. It can be a simple jump start for labor. The next step will likely be the application of a gel to your cervix to help it ripen. Next, expect to receive an IV drip with Pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin, which will start your uterus contracting. You and baby will be monitored to see how you are handling the contractions and to adjust the dosage correctly. Sometimes mothers will need pain relief for the stronger contractions from induced labor. If an epidural wasn't in your birth plan, try to be flexible as you may find it necessary now. The important thing is to have a healthy birth resulting in a healthy mother and child.
Most doctors will induce if any signs of fetal distress are apparent or if it's suspected that the baby is getting too large. Also, if pre-eclampsia is an issue, induction is the only treatment. Typically labor will be induced if a mother gets two weeks out from her due date, regardless of symptoms.
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