As if forty weeks isn’t long enough to be pregnant, some women will have to wait even longer to have their babies. If you’re one of them, don’t panic, but educate yourself with the facts.
Is going overdue okay? Should you be concerned about the amount of time your baby seems to be taking to make her entrance into the world? At what point will you need intervention? These are all good questions.
First – Define Overdue
Unfortunately, with advances in modern medicine, there have been methods developed to determine a specific due date. That due date is then communicated to the expectant mom, who then likes to carve it in stone in her brain, anxiously counting down the days until her baby’s arrival.
But there are so many factors that go into the calculation of a baby’s due date, none of which appear to be accounted for in this estimation system. For example, how long is a woman’s cycle? I, for one, tend to have longer cycles, averaging 34 days. What about the woman who’s cycle is only 28 days or even less?
Additionally, an important factor to consider is at what point in the cycle did a woman conceive? If it was earlier, or later than the modern formulaic system accounts for, the due date would/could be different than the one is given.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, it’s difficult to determine what “overdue” actually means. At what point does the baby become overdue?
Statistics of Babies Born on Their Due Dates
This brings me to another important point in the question at hand: Is going overdue okay? Statistically speaking, only 4% – 5% of babies are born on their actual due date. Approximately 80% of women will give birth between 38-42 weeks. Since births falling in that month timespan are all considered normal, what we actually have is more of a due month rather than due date! Since it is perfectly normal to go up to two weeks past your “due date,” a pregnancy of 40-42 weeks isn’t really “overdue.”
Emotional Effects on Mama
Waiting for your baby and feeling like she will never arrive (I promise you, she will! 😉 ) can take an emotional toll. If you’re overdue, you may feel anxious about the baby’s health, upset that the baby is coming, impatient for the time to pass, and so on. These feelings are all very normal.
How to Interpret the Risks of Going Overdue
Forty weeks comes and goes, the baby is tucked comfortably inside, and yet everyone is anxious for the baby to arrive. Everyone except the baby, that is! At that point, your health care provider may start to pressure you with some “facts” about being overdue.
You might hear that there’s an increased risk of stillbirth, the placenta may not support the baby any longer, and an increase in baby’s size may make delivery difficult for both mama and the little one. Are these risks worth paying attention to?
Let’s consider a few things: first, being overdue is actually 42+ weeks, and not 40 weeks. Beyond that, we’ve already talked about the fact that your official due date is very hard to pinpoint to an exact day.
Secondly, there is a slight increase in the chance of stillbirth beyond 42 weeks, but that increase is very slight — 4-7 still births in 1,000 deliveries, as opposed to 2-3 per 1,000 when the baby is delivered between 37 and 42 weeks. When we interpret those numbers, the risk of stillbirth does increase, but it increases from .3% to .7% — not a huge increase. In fact, not much of a chance at all, really.
In my research, I was surprised to find that the idea of the placenta “expiring” after 40+ weeks is a myth, not based on any scientific evidence, and yet doctors routinely advise that the placenta only has so long before it will fizzle up and quit working. There are reasons a placenta will quit working, but time, alone is not one of them. An unhealthy lifestyle, smoking, doing drugs, or medical conditions such as preeclampsia are reasons why a placenta may no longer support a baby, not going overdue.
Finally, having a big baby is not a reason to induce. Although doctors would have expectant mamas to believe that an induction is necessary because the baby is large, it is entirely unnecessary to induce delivery because of suspected higher birthweight. In addition, ultrasounds are notoriously inaccurate when it comes to estimating both baby’s size and fluid levels in late pregnancy.
As you can see, the reasons given for inducing an overdue pregnancy, aren’t necessarily what they appear to be. Consider these things and don’t be too quick to think that going overdue means you need intervention.
Questions to Ask When You’re Overdue
When you’re overdue, the baby’s arrival is constantly on your mind. That’s so normal. Since you’re anxious to hold your little one in your arms, it become increasingly more difficult to be patient. As a result, you may find it’s easier to get talked into being induced. Consider these questions as you wait:
- Was my due date correct in the first place?
- Why am I in a rush to deliver the baby before delivery happens naturally?
- Am I believing mainstream medicine and just taking my healthcare provider’s word for things?
- Have I thought through the risks vs. the benefits of being induced?
- What can I do to be patient and let the baby come naturally?
Things to do While Waiting for Labor
We’ve already established the fact that waiting for your baby to arrive can be maddening. But that doesn’t mean you have to sit back and do nothing! Here’s a list of helpful things you can so while you wait for your baby to come!
- Keep track of kick counts
- Keep a good balance of resting and staying active
- Don’t stress
- Realize the baby will come eventually
- Get a massage
- Spend time enjoying the last moments without the baby
- Don’t read every horror story you can find
Natural Ways to Induce Labor
Just because your baby isn’t arriving when you think she should, doesn’t mean you can’t try a few things to hopefully speed labor along. Here are a few ideas for you to try. If nothing else, you’ll pass the time trying!
- Nipple stimulation
- Drinking red raspberry leaf tea
- Eating fresh pineapple
- Take a long walk
- Have sex
Should You Be Induced?
I know it’s tempting as the days grow long and you’re still pregnant! At this point, you’ll do just about anything (within reason) to get your baby here and in your arms. One option is to induce the delivery.
There are times when inducing labor is fitting and is the right choice for both mom, and baby, but for the most part, labor induction should be reserved for a last resort option. Induction does carry the risk of causing complications to both you and your baby. If at all possible, and you and your baby are not at risk, try to avoid being induced at all costs.
Before making the decision to induce labor, check out this post for reasons why you shouldn’t induce.
It’s time we stop forcing babies into a timeline we deem best for them. Your baby will come when she’s ready. Don’t worry about when that will be. As you wait for your little one to arrive, focus on the things you can do now that you won’t be able to do as soon as your little one arrives.
Don’t spend your time lamenting the fact that the baby’s not here yet. Enjoy the last stages of your pregnancy. Remember that the timeline given for your baby to arrive is just an approximation and not a hard and fast date.
It won’t be long and you’ll be snuggling your little bundle of joy, excited that she’s finally here. In the meantime, just be patient and wait. It’s all you can do anyway!