by Cynthia Flynn, CNM, Ph.D.
Q. What can I expect when I pass my due date?
A. What happens when you go past your due date (40 completed weeks) depends on several factors, especially your own health and that of your child. If either of you are not well, the pressure to induce or to have a cesarean is increased. Assuming that you and your child are well, what happens depends partly on the preference of your provider. Statistics show that most babies who are born between 37 and 42 weeks do very well. Most providers will do non-stress tests (NSTs) beginning in the 41st week to make sure the fetus is still doing well. And most providers will offer induction by 42 completed weeks of gestation, although some will offer it sooner. Some providers will also offer the mother the option of continuing the pregnancy longer than 42 weeks if the biophysical profile (a special ultrasound) and the NST's are normal. If you are seeing a midwife, s/he may suggest herbs, homeopathics, stretching of the membranes, castor oil, teas, nipple stimulation, intercourse or other low-tech methods of encouraging that baby to come prior to beginning a medical induction.
Many moms are very anxious to meet their babies, and want to be induced. There is something to be said for letting the baby be born on his or her "real" birthday. And the risk of other interventions, such as epidurals and cesareans, increases when we induce. So if you and your baby are well, consider being patient--it's worth it!
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