Thinking of finding the nearest trampoline and jumping your baby out? We offer you some advice on what to do if your baby is overdue!
Any woman who has ever been pregnant will tell you that even one day past her due date, is one day too many in most cases. While a normal pregnancy can last anywhere from 266 days to 280 days, or 38 to 42 weeks, about 5% of babies are post-term or post-mature.
How is my due date calculated?
Although fertilisation occurs about 2 weeks after your last menstrual period, pregnancy is calculated from the first day of that period and lasts an average of 40 weeks. So, for example, when your doctor or midwife estimates your pregnancy at 8 weeks, the foetus is really only 6 weeks old.
To calculate your expected date of delivery (EDD), your caregiver will subtract 3 months from the first day of your last menstrual period and add 7 days. Also try our due-date calculator.
If your average cycle is longer or shorter than 28 days, the extra days should be added to or the shortfall subtracted from the EDD. Sometimes counting ahead 266 days from the exact date of conception is more accurate, but not every woman knows when that was.
An early pelvic exam done to measure the size of the uterus may be done in any case. This will help “date” the pregnancy if you are not sure of when your last period was. An ultrasound will also be helpful in this instance.
What if I’m overdue?
Sometimes it’s better to deliver sooner rather than later. If your pregnancy goes beyond 1 week of your due date, your caregiver will keep a watchful eye on you and your baby. He will check the fluid surrounding your baby as well as the heart rate using an electronic foetal monitor.
Should your pregnancy persist beyond 10 days, your doctor will probably advise an induction. This is done to avoid complications such as foetal distress, or a baby that grows too large to deliver easily. The placenta needs to be watched as well, as it may also stop working, and this may compromise oxygen and nutrients to your baby.
What is induction?
Induction is the starting off of labour artificially, when the body does not spontaneously go into labour when it should. If your caregiver decides on induction, you may be given medication to help your cervix soften.
Types of labour induction
Labour can be induced by placing hormone-laden pesseries into the vagina that stimulate the cervix to open, or synthetic oxytocin can be administered (on its own or at the same time as the pesseries are inserted) via an intravenous drip. The dosage will be adjusted to regulate the strength and frequency of the contractions.
Puncturing of the amniotic sac
Your bag of water (amniotic sac) surrounding the baby may also be punctured allowing the fluid to leak out, which may stimulate the uterus to start contracting.
A gentler option (although quite uncomfortable) is a membrane sweep. Your caregiver places a finger between the membranes and the cervix and sweeps the two apart. This may get labour going within 48 hours.
With all the old wives’ tales out there about what to do and what not to, you’re probably a bit confused. Here are some tips to help you!
How to induce labour yourself
This involves the gentle rubbing or rolling of the nipple to encourage the start of contractions. The theory is that the hormone oxytocin (which causes the uterus to contract) is released and this may cause labour to start. Nipple stimulation can cause very strong contractions so use with care.
Intercourse with orgasm triggers the release of oxytocin which may get the uterus contracting. Also, semen has high levels of prostaglandins which help to soften and ripen the cervix – making it responsive to the contractions.
This is safe practice, as long as your placenta is not lying low and your waters have not broken. Although this sounds more fun than a medical induction, some men feel awkward doing this. You may have to be creative about positioning.
This is thought to soften the cervix and bring on labour. Pineapples contains small amounts of an enzyme called bromelain, so it would require eating as many as 7 or more. Bromelain is thought to have an effect on prostaglandins, which causes the cervix to soften.
The pineapple must be fresh – not canned. There is very little research on this, and you may end up with the runs, so be wary of this one.
Pulsatilla and Caulophylum are two commonly used homeopathic remedies used to stimulate labour. These are very safe, but you will need guidance from your homeopath or childbirth educator on how to take it.
Although there is not much research available, limited studies have shown that this practice is safe for mother and baby. Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points in the body, which stimulates the energy within the body to restore balance and equilibrium. Acupressure works in the same way.
This has worked for many women. Walking must be as brisk as possible – but don’t power walk! The reason appears to be that the upright position gets the forces of gravity working for you, encouraging the baby’s head to move into the pelvis and onto the cervix.
The pressure of the baby’s head on the cervix stimulates the release of oxytocin, which will hopefully bring on labour. If you decide to give this a try, be sure to keep well hydrated, don’t walk on your own and don’t walk to the point of exhaustion.
What to do while you’re waiting
This baby will come out! It’s normal to feel frustrated and tired and very disappointed. You have a right to those feelings so accept them, but try to remain positive and savour the last few days of being pregnant. Put your feet up – your 24/7 job starts soon.
Take advantage of your time
Finish up the nursery, post your letters, fetch your dry cleaning, cook – if you feel up to it, go to a movie or watch DVDs, but sleep as much as you can.
Continue to make plans
You have the perfect excuse if you need to cancel.
If you can’t take any more calls, leave a message on your voicemail saying “lady is still in waiting”.
Spend time with your partner
It will be some time before you catch your breath after your baby is born and it may be a while before you get time for “just the two of you”.
Speak to your caregiver
You will be having frequent check-ups, but call him if you are worried or anxious. Get your caregiver’s advice before trying anything to bring on labour.