By the time you reach 40 weeks
of pregnancy, many women are more than ready to meet their new addition to the family. However, many women will still be waiting for a while yet; what can - or should - you do if your baby is overdue?
Most women go into labour
somewhere between 39
and 41 weeks pregnant. When you reach 37
weeks pregnant, you are deemed to be ‘full term’; if your baby is born from that point onwards, her or his lungs should be mature enough to breathe on their own outside the womb.
Because working out when you fell pregnant is often an inexact science, labour from 37 weeks
onwards is considered normal. Similarly, your midwife or consultant probably won’t think about intervening to encourage labour before 41 weeks as it’s possible you ovulated later than average and so aren’t quite as pregnant as the standard measure would suggest!
You could also try some of
the tried and tested natural methods of getting things
going - a hot curry, eating pineapple, long gentle walks, castor oil, or
However, most medical professionals won’t want to wait more than 42 weeks before trying to kick start things, as this can put you and your baby at increased risk of birth complications. Babies born at post 42 weeks can have dry skin that tears easily, and be overweight, plus you run a greater risk of developing a dangerous infection in your uterus that could harm the baby. Although it should be remembered that very few women - only around 4% in the UK - go past 42 weeks.
There are no guaranteed ways of getting labour
going, but your consultant or midwife will probably suggest a membrane sweep
if nothing is happening at 41 weeks. This involves the manual stimulation of the neck of your womb - your cervix - to try to trigger natural labour. Conducted by your doctor or midwife, it’s done by sweeping a finger around the cervix with the aim being to separate the membranes around the baby from the cervix. This should trigger the release of hormones known as prostaglandins, which may get labour up and running.
Although not generally painful, this procedure can be uncomfortable, as the cervix can be hard to reach, and has a higher chance of working if your cervix is already softening in readiness for labour.
If this doesn’t work, then there are other methods that can be used to induce labour. About one in five pregnancies result in induction
, though there is a lot of variation across the UK. You could be offered prostaglandin, a substance that can help stimulate contractions, which is applied as a pessary into the vagina. If all else fails, you could be offered a syntocinon drip; a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin, which may stimulate contractions, though this isn’t always recommended for everyone. Some medical professionals may also advise a caesarean
should the previous methods of induction fail.
Of course, if you are worried about going overdue, you can try some of the tried and tested (but not proven) natural methods of getting things going - a hot curry, eating pineapple, long gentle walks, castor oil, or even sex!