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What happens if I go past my due date?

According to research, only about one in 25 (four per cent) of babies are born on their exact due date. About one in five babies are born at 41 weeks or after. So rest assured, you’re not alone in wondering when your baby will make an appearance!

If you’re only a few days past your due date, most doctors won’t offer to induce your labour for a while. Although most babies remain healthy, obstetricians do worry when pregnancy continues several weeks past their due date. That’s because, after 42 weeks of pregnancy, a small number of babies die unexpectedly while they are still inside the womb (uterus) or shortly after the birth. Most hospitals follow guidelines which recommend offering induction of labour when you’re 41-42 weeks pregnant. This is based on evidence that babies are healthier at birth and more likely to be born safe and well when hospitals induce labour at or beyond 41 weeks. This approach seems to reduce the number of caesareans that are needed too.

If your pregnancy has been straightforward, you’re likely to be offered induction at 41 weeks. The timing may vary according to your hospital’s policy. In some areas you may be offered an induction at between seven days and 10 days after your due date, in others it may be two weeks. This is because it’s still not known when the ideal time is to induce labour in overdue mums. You may prefer to have your labour induced at 42 weeks, by which time you may have had enough of being pregnant. Or you may prefer to wait and see what happens, particularly if you’ve had a baby before, as the risk of stillbirth is lower for women who’ve already had a baby.

If your obstetrician suggests an induction, ask if your hospital usually offers inductions at a certain date, or if it’s due to your individual circumstances, such as your age, your weight, or complications in your pregnancy, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Your doctor will be able to answer any questions you have and she’ll take your wishes into consideration when an induction date is suggested. If your obstetrician suggests an induction, ask if your hospital usually offers inductions at a certain date, or if it’s due to your individual circumstances, such as your age, your weight, or complications in your pregnancy, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Your doctor will be able to answer any questions you have and she’ll take your wishes into consideration when an induction date is suggested.
If you’ve spoken to your obstetrician but you’re not sure about having an induction, you could ask for a day or two to consider it. See what your midwife thinks, read our information on induction with your partner and talk to friends who’ve had an induction. Though keep in mind that every pregnancy is different.

If there are no risks to your pregnancy and you don’t want to be induced, you could ask to be monitored every two to three days, to check that your baby is well. This should be offered to you if your pregnancy continues beyond 42 weeks.

 

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