So, your due date came and went, and you're still lugging around that passenger who, hard as you try to relax, may be getting on your nerves right about now. How can someone so little be so stubborn?
Good practice for toddlerhood, yes, but that doesn't make it any less uncomfortable. Chances are you can barely make it off the couch these days, your ankles are officially cankles, and your last good night's sleep was a couple of months ago. It would try the patience of a pregnant saint.
Here, what you might be feeling at 42 weeks, what that stubborn little sweetie pie is doing in there, how your partner can help, and some good ways to pass the time until you finally go into labor, which is hopefully any minute now.
To begin with, you might be feeling your anticipation turn to desperation this week …
What You Might Be Feeling
Believe it or not, you're not officially overdue. Thirty-seven to 42 weeks is considered full-term. In fact, you may not even be at 42 weeks. Many women who go this far beyond their due date simply have a miscalculated due date, typically because they incorrectly remember the start date of their last period.
Either way, you find yourself at 42 weeks along, as far as you know, and probably begging for some real contractions. The pregnancy symptoms don't disappear just because you've passed your due date, so aside from the desperate desire to give birth, you might (still) be experiencing:
- Heartburn, constipation, gassiness, hemorrhoids
- Mild swelling of feet and ankles, general bloating
- Difficulty getting around
- Kicking, punching and squirming in your womb
- Braxton-Hicks contractions (or "false labor," a random, fairly painless tightening of your uterine walls)
You may also start feeling some signs of labor, such as true contractions, which are rhythmic and painful; passing of the mucous plug that blocks your cervix; diarrhea (your body making space to pass a baby); and the "bloody show," or blood-tinged discharge. All of this means labor is near -- perhaps a couple of hours, perhaps a couple of days.
That's all normal and good. At this point, though, since your baby has been in your womb longer than is ideal, you do need to be on the lookout for some changes that might not be normal and could signal a problem, including a decrease in fetal movement or a leaking of green-tinged amniotic fluid, which signals the baby has passed fecal matter into the fluid (which is dangerous), and dramatic swelling of your hands, feet or ankles (which can signal a dangerous condition called preeclampsia). If you experience these, call your doctor or go straight to the hospital, because you and/or your little one could be in distress.
But the chances of that are slim. It's far more likely he or she is just lazing about, reluctant to leave your warm, cozy womb…
What's Going on in Your Body
At 42 weeks, most of what's happening in your womb is simply a continuation of what was happening last week, and the week before that: Lung and brain development, shedding of vernix and lanugo, and just general chilling out in about the most comfortable home ever.
Still, other goings-on might be a little bit troublesome, which is why your doctor or midwife might be raising the subject of inducing labor this week. At 42 weeks, the concern is mostly the baby's continued weight gain, because it could mean your baby grows too large for an "easy" vaginal delivery. If he or she grows big enough, your doctor might (or might not!) end up recommending a C-section.
Also this week, your baby's hair and nails are still growing, so you may be greeting a newborn who could really use a cut and a manicure.
And all the while, you're sitting around, probably brainstorming ways to start your labor. Here, according to old wives' tale, your partner might actually be able to help …
What Your Partner Should Know
Guess what -- having sex might trigger labor!
Eh, probably not, but it's one of the activities (along with eating spicy food) that "they" say can help you on the road to delivery. And it's a fun one. So let your partner know it's time to get the ball rolling -- or at least have some fun trying.
Really, though, it's not a bad idea, since it'll be at least six weeks after the baby's born before you have the go-ahead for intercourse, and it may be even longer than that before you have the time or energy for a roll in the hay. So partners, take the initiative, since your lady might not be feeling too sexy these days. At best (or coincidentally), the contractions start. At worst, the two of you get your minds off the waiting game for a while.
Most certainly, the waiting game has most of your joint attention these days, and that's probably unavoidable. Still, you might as well put some of that mental energy to good, productive use …
Some Things to Consider
At week 42, you're anywhere from seven to 13 days past your due date, and everything might be perfectly fine. However, many caregivers will recommend labor induction by the end of this week or the beginning of next, either because a problem comes up or a problem might come up.
So this week, you may want to learn about what's involved in inducing labor, so you can come to the decision from a place of knowledge. Your doctor or midwife will be able to explain in detail, but basically, you're looking at a couple of possible approaches to getting things moving, including:
- Breaking your water -- Your doctor or midwife ruptures the amniotic sac, which could trigger labor to start.
- Administering Pitocin -- This medication is a synthetic form of the hormone oxytocin, which your body releases at the start of labor. This artificially triggers the process.
- A third, called "sweeping of the membranes," is less common. In a woman whose cervix is thinned and ready, the caregiver may recommend a procedure that detaches the sac from the cervix, which may (or may not) help start labor.
Whether you and your caregiver decide to induce or not, you should know this: While the prenatal testing may dramatically increase from here on out, that doesn't mean there's a problem …
Don't Worry If…
Once you go a week beyond your due date, some concerns come up simply because you're carrying longer than the typical gestation period. When that happens, problems can arise, so your caregiver will most likely step up the baby monitoring. This does not mean your baby is trouble. It's simply a way to make sure everybody is still healthy and happy until labor starts.
At 42 weeks, your doctor may want to increase the frequency of:
- Ultrasounds, to look at the baby
- Fetal monitoring, to check the baby's heart rate
- Vaginal exams, to check on the status of your cervix
The point is to make sure everything is OK and to find out immediately if it's not so that your labor can be induced. And if it does come to induction, don't sweat it. Your baby is fully baked by now, and the best thing for everyone is to bring him or her into the outside world so the adventure can really begin.
Preferably right now. Lazy little munchkin.
For more information on pregnancy, parenting and related topics, look over the links on the next page.
- Guide to Being 30 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 31 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 32 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 33 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 34 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 35 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 36 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 37 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 38 Weeks Pregnant
- Guide to Being 39 Weeks Pregnant
More Great Links
- Preeclampsia. Baby Center. March 2011. (June 23, 2011) http://www.babycenter.com/0_preeclampsia_257.bc
- Pregnancy Week 42. Parents. (June 20, 2011) http://www.parents.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/42/
- Pregnancy: What to Expect When You're Past Your Due Date. FamilyDoctor. (June 20, 2011) http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/women/pregnancy/labor/143.html
- Week 42 of Pregnancy. What To Expect. (June 20, 2011) http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/week-42.aspx
- Weeks 41-42. Birth.com.au. (June 20, 2011) http://www.birth.com.au/Pregnancy/Pregnancy-29-40-weeks/Pregnancy-week-by-week/Weeks-41-42