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Guide to Being 41 Weeks Pregnant

At 41 weeks pregnant, you probably want nothing more than to go into labor! See more pregnancy pictures.
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We'll start off this article by saying, sorry you're reading this. Your due date has likely come and gone, and you're probably feeling more than a little cranky. But fear not! You will not be pregnant forever. We guarantee you'll be holding a real, live baby very shortly.

As you're lying around, relaxing (which you should be doing) and trying to mentally will your uterus to contract, remember that due dates are never exact. Your baby might not even be overdue at all -- it's often pretty difficult to pinpoint the date of conception, so your due date is something of an educated guess. About half of all babies are born after their due date, according to WhatToExpect.com. And if you are actually overdue, it's no cause for panic. It happens all the time, and in fact, overdue babies are often bigger, have more hair and appear more alert than their on-time counterparts.

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If this is your first pregnancy, keep in mind that first babies are notoriously slow to evict themselves from the womb. All you can really do now is be patient; unless you're a high-risk pregnancy or there's a medical reason to induce, your caregiver will probably hold off until next week to do anything because a wait-and-see approach is favorable to inducing labor. So hang in there!

We have quite a few guesses about what you might be feeling this week, and fatigue and irritability are most likely at the top of that list. The baby is resting squarely on your bladder now, so you're probably practically living in the bathroom. By now, you're likely very familiar with the signs of labor checklist, which includes cervical dilation, effacement(softening of the cervix during labor), loss of mucus plug (known as bloody show), nausea and diarrhea. But you also know that the appearance of any of them is not a sure sign that it's go-time. You could go into labor in a few hours -- or a few days. You could also start contractions without having any of these symptoms.

Unless you have the patience of a saint, you've probably discussed induction options with your doctor or midwife. But if the baby is still fairly active and isn't showing obvious signs of distress, most care providers will wait until 42 weeks before inducing. And no matter how anxious you might be, you need to think twice before going ahead with an elective induction. The C-section risk doubles when labor is induced, according to a study in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Of course, the longer the little guy is in there, the bigger he's going to be when he's trying to come out. And after 42 weeks, your risk of stillbirth doubles, so you'll definitely be monitored very carefully.

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At 7.5 to 8 pounds and about 21 inches long, your baby is physically ready to be born now, but for some reason she feels like staying put for a while longer. There's really no more moving-around room in there, so she can't be all that comfy, but she's not feeling the need to make her appearance just yet. What she is feeling the need to do this week is produce stress hormones -- lots of them.

As you read this, your baby's endocrine system is gearing up for childbirth. No one's totally sure what triggers the birth process, but there's a good chance it has something to do with a hormonal signal from the baby to the placenta. As you can imagine, birth is a pretty stressful experience for a baby -- in fact, she'll be making more stress hormones then than she will in her entire life.

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As you produce hormones during labor to help you deal with the pain, it will trigger the baby's adrenal glands to make catecholamines, or neurotransmitter hormones (think adrenaline and dopamine). These natural chemicals will help her breathe and increase her blood flow, energy supply and alertness. So, it's possible that her increased time in utero will allow her to be better adapted to life on the outside.

food in a slow cooker
If your partner hasn't already stocked the fridge and freezer in anticipation of the big day, a few slow-cooker suppers is an easy remedy.
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Your partner, of course, isn't as physically beaten up as you are right now, but he or she is probably pretty anxious, too. It's hard to stay in a constant state of preparedness, and it's taking a toll on both of you. Just remember to be supportive of each other, and try to enjoy the last days you have together all alone. Some day in the very near future, it's going to seem like an impossible luxury to do something as simple as sitting on the couch and having an uninterrupted conversation.

Something your partner might enjoy doing this week is making a music playlist for the hospital. You might appreciate a lot of tunes for what will likely be a very long day. You never know how labor may go and what your mood will be, so why not have a bunch of options at your disposal? Include a slow, soothing song at first and then a few tunes to pump you up to get through those contractions. Your better half will probably enjoy choosing music that will inspire and energize you, and if you find you have absolutely no tolerance for any tunes while you're in the thick of things, you can always listen when you're relaxing with a precious baby in your arms.

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As we mentioned before, the C-section risk doubles when you have an elective induction. If your body isn't fully ready to go into labor, it might not respond to the intervention, which increases your chances of ending up on the operating table. Induction also increases the risk of infection and low fetal heart rate if the oxytocin used to stimulate the uterus and induce labor causes too many contractions.

But if there's a medical reason that you have to be induced this week, it doesn't necessarily mean you're on the road to complications or a C-section. Your doctor will know when the risks of staying pregnant outweigh the risks of induction. Chances are you'll be induced if there's any concern about your health or the baby's, such as:

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  • You're 10 days beyond your due date.
  • Your water has broken, but you haven't had any contractions.
  • Your placenta is deteriorating.
  • You have high blood pressure or diabetes.
  • Your amniotic fluid is decreasing.
  • There's any sign of infection in your uterus.

So though it may be hard to resist the temptation to beg your doctor for an induction, be strong and stay the course. You might feel like you can't be pregnant for one more minute, but just think of it as a safeguard for your baby's health. You can do it!

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close-up of hands getting a manicure
Treat yourself to a relaxing mani-pedi. At 41 weeks pregnant, it might be the last time you can indulge for a while!
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People are probably coming out of the woodwork with advice on how to kick-start the labor process, but you shouldn't feel like you have to expend your energy on any of their theories. The truth is that there's no hard-and-fast proof for any nonmedical labor-induction method. Your doctor or midwife might recommend having sex (it's good for relaxation, and there is some evidence that hormones in semen can stimulate the cervix), but the rest of them are merely old wives' tales. Bottom line, you'll go into labor when you're ready, so the best thing to do is rest and let nature do its thing.

Try to think of this week as bonus time -- you've done all the running around, preparations and worrying. The nursery's done (we hope), baby supplies are at the ready and you have stockpiles of meals in the freezer (right?). If you work outside the home, you might be on maternity leave already, so there's really nothing you can do but sit back and try to relax. Watch a triple-feature of mindless movies. Lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling. Do whatever you can to keep calm and comfortable.

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Well, that's it -- in no time you'll have your baby, and all the waiting will be over. And it will have all been worth it.

If you want more info about pregnancy and babies, take a look at the links that follow.

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Sources

  • Baby Center. "Your Pregnancy: 41 Weeks." (June 22, 2011) http://www.babycenter.com/303_41-weeks_1615723.bc
  • Baby Zone. "41 Weeks Pregnant: Your Fourth Trimester." http://www.babyzone.com/pregnancy/week/article/last-week-of-pregnancy
  • Doheny, Kathleen. "Labor Induction Boosts C-Section Risk." Medicine Net. June 22, 2010. (June 22, http://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/womens-health/articles/2010/06/22/labor-induction-boosts-c-section-risk
  • iVillage. "41 Weeks Pregnant: Pregnancy Week-by-Week Guide." Sept. 11, 2007. (June 22, 2011) http://www.ivillage.com/41-weeks-pregnant-pregnancy-week-week-guide/6-a-144796
  • Mayo Clinic. "Inducing Labor: When to Wait, When to Induce." (June 23, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/inducing-labor/PR00117
  • WebMD. "Can Labor Be Induced Naturally?" (June 22, 2011) http://www.webmd.com/baby/inducing-labor-naturally-can-it-be-done
  • What to Expect. "Week 41 of Pregnancy." (June 22, 2011) http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/week-41.aspx

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