What if I go past 40 weeks pregnant?
If your due date has come and gone, your baby may need a little help to make its entrance into the world
At a glance
- Inductions are the artificial starting of labour
- They usually happen between 7 and 14 days after your due date
- There are different methods and you may end up having more than one
'Your baby is overdue' is the term your midwife will use when you pass your due date and there is still no sign of your baby.
Your midwives will probably start talking induction once you get to a week over your due date, however, they might be happy to let you go to 14 days if you would prefer not to be induced, and if your baby is still happy and healthy in the womb.
What is an induction?
Induction is basically the artificial starting of labour. There are a few different methods that hospitals use to get you going, and you may end up having one or more of them.
The most common initial approach to induction is a 'sweep'. This will usually be offered by your midwife at 40-41 weeks. Your midwife will give you an internal examination and use her finger to loosen the membranes around your cervix. You might find it slightly uncomfortable and have some bloody discharge after. Having a sweep reduces the chances of needing a formal induction of labour and research shows that a membrane sweep reduces the chances of a pregnancy progressing beyond 41 weeks by about half.
You might also be offered prostaglandins to encourage the cervix to soften and shorten and contractions to start. These are administered in hospital (as a tablet, gel or pessary given into the vagina) but you may be able to go home whilst it takes effect. Some mums respond quite quickly to these, but in others it can take a day or two
Breaking the waters
For some mums past their due date, midwives might suggest breaking the waters – or to give it its technical term, the artificial rupture of membranes (ARM). Labour may kick in once the waters are broken, but some mums might need an oxytocin drip, especially if it is their first baby.
For stubborn babies who are 40 weeks plus an oxytocin drip might be suggested if all other efforts have failed. It will be administered in hospital, and your baby will be constantly monitored.
If you are 40+ weeks pregnant and induction is being suggested by your midwife, talk through all the options available to you. You will still be able to stick to your birth plan in most cases, but you might want to have an open mind about what pain relief you would like, as some mums find induced labours can bring labour on quicker than those that start naturally.