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Remember when we were waiting in anticipation for April the giraffe to give birth? More than a million viewers tuned in for the actual birth, which was live streamed. Why the intrigue? Other than the fact that newborn baby giraffes are really cute, April was a month overdue.
Maybe you can relate, if your due date has come and gone. But just what does it mean to be overdue?
An average pregnancy lasts 40 weeks from the first day of your last menstrual period. This calculation helps to determine your estimated due date.
In the past, babies were considered “full term” at 37 weeks of gestation. Today, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says a full-term pregnancy begins at 39 weeks. These full-term babies (born between 39-41 weeks) have the best health outcomes, says ACOG, compared with babies born before or after this period.
Only about 5 percent of women give birth on their actual due date, and it’s common for women who are having a baby for the first time to go past their due date. But, once you’ve been pregnant for 42 weeks or longer, you’re considered “post-term,” or overdue.
There are increased risks in post-term pregnancies. The placenta may not work as well, an infection may develop inside the womb, or the amniotic-fluid level may decline. Your baby also has an increased risk of certain problems, such as passing a bowel movement which is then aspirated. And, there is an increased risk of problems arising in labor resulting in a c-section.
Most overdue women go into labor naturally, but if it doesn’t happen, your OB-GYN may recommend inducing labor. You could also ask your OB-GYN about these well-known, natural (although not scientifically proven) ways to induce labor:
Go for a walk. This simple act allows gravity to do some of the work, helping draw your baby down into your pelvis and dilate your cervix. It may include anything from a gentle stroll to a long walk or stair climbing. Don’t overdo it though.
Try relaxation techniques. Stress-relieving activities like relaxation techniques, visualization and meditation can do wonders to relieve tension. When you let everything go, you may be surprised to find yourself in labor. If not, at least you’ll be calmer for the big day.
Stimulate your nipples. Just as breastfeeding helps your uterus shrink back down, nipple stimulation may help encourage contractions. Try to gently rub or roll massage your nipples with the palm of your hand. Check with your doctor first though, as it may not be safe in high risk pregnancies.
Have sex. While it may seem impossible at this stage in your pregnancy, you may want to give sex a try. Sex can trigger the release of oxytocin, and the hormones in sperm may help to soften the cervix. If nothing else, sex may relieve some tension and reinforce the bond with your partner. Again, check with doctor first.
Eat spicy foods. Some believe that eating spicy foods can trigger contractions in the uterus and bring on labor. Eating spicy foods may also result in mild diarrhea, which causes intestinal contractions that may lead to uterine contractions. Just remember that you might bring on heartburn instead.
Get a massage. A prenatal massage (or acupressure) to certain pressure points is thought by some to bring on labor. Make sure you clear it with your doctor first and find a certified prenatal massage therapist.
Evening primrose oil (EPO). Historically, midwives have recommended EPO (sometimes in combination with drinking red raspberry leaf tea) to prime and soften the cervix. Of course, ask your OB-GYN before trying this one.
Try acupuncture. Acupuncture, in which thin needles are inserted into specific pressure points on the body, has been thought to stimulate uterine activity in overdue moms-to-be. You’ll need to ask your doctor about this too.
You may feel frustrated if your baby doesn’t arrive on time, but it’s usually best to wait for labor to begin on its own. You want your baby to have a healthy start, and each week of pregnancy matters for your baby’s growth and development.
Learn more about pregnancy and baby services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.
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