We all know someone that has waited for the anticipated due date to come so they can meet the child they have carried for the past nine months. But when that often-discussed due date comes and goes -- and there still is no baby to hold --some things change.
Before that magical 40-week mark approaches, mothers have been known to say, “This has been my best pregnancy,” or “I’m going to be so sad when I can’t feel my baby inside me anymore.” But when that due day comes and goes, those statements can quickly change to “Why won’t this baby get out of me!” or “I just want this to be over.”
Why is it that a baby won’t always come on the estimated due date? Well, there are many reasons:
- This is your first pregnancy
- You’ve previously had an overdue pregnancy
- You’re carrying a boy
- You’re considered obese
- Your due date may have been misestimated, especially if there’s uncertainty about the exact start date of your last menstrual period
- If your due date was based on an ultrasound late in your second or third trimester
You shouldn’t necessarily consider yourself a post-term pregnancy just because your due date has come and gone and you’re still without your bundle of joy. To medically be considered “post-term,” your pregnancy must continue two weeks past your projected due day. At that point, most mothers-to-be are exclaiming, “No way, I cannot be pregnant for another two weeks!”
Post-term pregnancies do have some health and medical risks. According to the Mayo Clinic, research has shown that when a pregnancy extends between 41 weeks and 41 weeks and six days, the baby might be at increased risk of health problems.
Those problems can include the baby being significantly larger than average weight at birth (called fetal macrosomia), which can also mean a higher risk of having to undergo an operative vaginal delivery, C-Section or having a baby’s shoulder stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone during delivery.
Babies who are classified as post-term can also experience Postmaturity Syndrome, which carries with it decreased fat beneath the skin; the lack of greasy coating at birth; decreased soft downy hair and low amniotic fluid, which can affect the baby’s heart rate and compress the umbilical cord during contractions.
Having a late-term or post-term pregnancy can also mean problems during delivery, including severe vaginal tears, infection and postpartum bleeding.
It’s important for mothers-to-be to note that if your due date has passed and you are still pregnant that you continue to follow up with your healthcare provider. A physician will continue to check the baby’s weight, heart rate, position and will ask about how much the baby is moving.
Your physician may ask you to undergo a test for fetal heart rate monitoring, a fetal-ultrasound and a test for the amniotic fluid volume. The results of those tests may tell the physician that it’s time to deliver the baby. If that’s the case, and you’re not already beginning to labor, the physician may consider you a candidate for induction. If you must choose that option, you should also know that you may be given medication to help your cervix ripen, or soften, before the onset of dilation. Your physician may even break your amniotic sac, or “water,” by creating a small opening with a thin plastic hook. You may also receive medication through an intravenous drip to start contractions.
Just remember this, if your due date comes and you don’t have a sweet baby in your arms – it’s okay. It’s almost time to meet this person that has been your companion for the past nine months. Your baby will be here before you know it. Rest while you can and soon, your baby’s birthday will arrive.