Overdue pregnancy is quite common and delivering the baby between the 37th and 42nd week is considered normal. Sometimes, the waiting period to see your little one exceeds the 40 week level and causes anxiety among parents. However, it should not be a cause of panic.
A pregnancy can go overdue because of several reasons. Here is everything you should know about it and ways to deal with the situation.
Reasons for Babies going Overdue
Usually, labor starts between 37 and 41 weeks of pregnancy. However, in certain cases it can get prolonged beyond 42 weeks. This is known as overdue, post-term, or prolonged pregnancy. Although there is no known or exact reason for this to happen, around 5 in 100 women will have an overdue pregnancy. Here are some factors that may be the possible reason behind this:
- First pregnancy
- Hereditary factors
- Previous overdue pregnancy
- Miscalculated due date
- Position of the baby, for example, breech position
- Maternal weight gain
If you have passed your due date, look for the signs of an overdue pregnancy. These include
- Meconium in amniotic fluid
- Low amniotic fluid volume
- Inadequately functioning placenta
Possible Risks associated with being Overdue
Usually, there might not be any major risk or complication to you or your baby if you’re overdue by one week, i.e. 41st week. However, if it gets delayed further into the 42nd or 43rd week, there may be some risks. Your doctor will constantly monitor you for the following:
- Infection inside the womb
- Placenta not being able to provide nutrients and oxygen to the fetus
- Any other unexpected problems in pregnancy
- Baby’s size being larger than average
- Prolonged labor
- Risk of C-section
- Shoulder dystocia (shoulder of the baby getting stuck behind the pelvic bone during the delivery)
- Meconium aspiration, caused by the staining of the amniotic fluid with meconium and is inhaled by the baby, causing breathing problems
- Oligohydramnios (low amniotic fluid) can lead to a drop in the fetal heart rate or cause compression of the umbilical cord during contractions
- Delivery complications such as infection, severe vaginal tears, postpartum bleeding
These risks can be associated with being overdue, and your doctor will keep a close watch throughout to ensure any possible complications are minimized.
Monitoring an Overdue Pregnancy
Your doctor will monitor you in the following ways once your due date has passed:
- Counting Kicks: You will be advised to count the number of times your baby kicks. This is an easy method of assuring that your baby is doing well.
- Non-stress test: A non-stress test is done twice a week and the fetal heart rate is closely monitored with CTG (cardiotocography). If an abnormality is identified in the non-stress test, a contraction stress test is performed. This helps in determining any uteroplacental insufficiency, which indicates a reduced blood flow in the placenta.
- Doppler Velocimetry: Doppler velocimetry helps in assessing the placental function by measuring the blood flow velocity through the umbilical artery.
- Biophysical Profile: Getting a biophysical profile (BPP) done to check the baby’s movements, amniotic fluid level, muscle tone, and breathing patterns.
- Checking fluid levels: Getting an amniotic fluid index test done to determine the fluid level – sufficient levels of amniotic fluid indicates proper functioning of the placenta.
After carefully monitoring an overdue mom, the doctors will proceed to induce labor through different techniques, if needed.
Doctors may suggest labor induction if the pregnancy is overdue beyond 41 weeks. In case of any complication with the baby, they might need the mother to deliver as soon as possible and will induce labor to make this happen. Even if there is no complication, your doctor might suggest labor induction if you have crossed your due date, to avoid any unexpected risks.
Induction is offered based on the following important factors:
- How many weeks overdue the mother is
- Her age
- Her weight
- Size of the baby (if baby is big)
- Signs of fetal distress
There are many different labor induction methods used by doctors to initiate contractions and to speed up the delivery process. However, before they do this, they will conduct a vaginal examination to check if your cervix is ready for labor. You will be given certain medications to ripen the cervix and initiate labor. One of these methods of induction will be used by the doctor:
- Prostaglandins: Gel like hormone is applied to the cervix to ripen it, which can bring on labor.
- Membrane sweep: This process gently separate the amniotic sac membrane from the uterine wall to trigger labor.
- Artificial rupture of membranes: A small incision is made in the sac to start labor.
- Oxytocin: A synthetic hormone is administered in the form of a tablet to be taken orally, or suppositories inserted into the vagina, or through an IV drop, to initiate labor.
Risks of Inducing Labor
There are some risk factors associated with labor induction. They include:
- Needing an epidural to decrease the effect or labor pain. This may increase the risk of obstetric intervention such as assisted vaginal delivery.
- Increased chances of a C-section.
- Heavy blood loss after normal method of childbirth.
- Induction may not work at first go, will need to be repeated thereafter.
- Use of medication may cause nausea, vomiting, muscle ache, and diarrhea.
The doctor will continuously check the heartbeat of your baby throughout labor induction and monitor your health too.
You can manage an overdue pregnancy in several ways. Make sure you take a lot of rest, and practice relaxation techniques or meditation. Try to find ways to keep yourself engaged in light activities that you enjoy. Do not hesitate to ask for help from your friends or family during this time. If you feel any discomfort, talk to your doctor to find out what’s normal and what’s not.
The best way to cope with an overdue pregnancy is to stay calm and stress-free. Worrying about it will not help in the induction process. Reach out to your doctor who can help you deal with the situation in a better way. Our experts at KIMS Cuddles are always available at every point in your pregnancy.
*Information shared here is for general purpose Please take doctors’ advice before taking any decision.