Guide to Being 42+ Weeks Pregnant

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Well, it's official: You're overdue, post-term, post-date or just plain sick of this miracle happening inside you. And who could blame you? Most pregnancies end before 42 weeks. Heck, you could have delivered five weeks ago and still been considered full-term.

It's possible you're not truly 43 weeks pregnant. It's possible (even likely) your due date was miscalculated because you didn't correctly remember the date of your last pre-pregnancy period. Even so, you are no doubt ready to get this thing over with and start being a mommy.

Lucky for you, your caregiver will almost definitely help you out with this STAT.

Here, what it probably feels like to be 42+ weeks along, what your baby is up to at this very late date, what you and your partner might want to be thinking about and what you can probably put out of your already over-wrought head.

First, you probably feel like you're going to literally pop …

What You Might Be Feeling

By this point, the heartburn and back pain that started weeks ago are probably still there.
By this point, the heartburn and back pain that started weeks ago are probably still there.

Whatever you were feeling last week, or five weeks ago, is probably what you're feeling now, only taken up a notch. You are very, very pregnant, probably over-baking your little bun (more on that in the next section), and your body is feeling it: The heartburn, general indigestion, swelling feet, bloating, sleeplessness, back pain and, at this point, nearly physical irritability at your continued state of discomfort may feel markedly worse than just last week. Maybe it's mental. It doesn't really matter.

This week, your breasts may start leaking colostrum if they haven't yet, and you may be feeling more frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions, aka false labor. These can be distinguished from true labor by their mildness and totally random intervals.

If you feel intense contractions that come and go in a rhythmic pattern and get progressively closer and longer, have diarrhea, experience periodlike cramping that starts in your lower back, or your water breaks, call your doctor, because it might be time.

If your water breaks and it's tinged green, or you feel a marked decrease in fetal activity, go to the hospital, because there might be a problem with your baby.

Most likely, though, there's no problem at all. Your little one is just reluctant to leave the comfort of your womb …

What's Going on in Your Body

Babies born this late are usually fairly large and alert.
Babies born this late are usually fairly large and alert.
© iStockphoto.com/Kameleon007

Your caregiver is most likely checking on your baby quite frequently to make sure there aren't any problems. And there probably aren't any -- except that your baby may be "over-baking" a bit.

Post-term babies are usually born with chapped skin, long nails and hair, some extra weight, and no vernix or lanugo at all. That skin is totally free of fetal fuzz and creamy coating, and it's dry from that unprotected exposure to amniotic fluid. It's fine -- he or she is simply in your uterus longer than is ideal and will, at first, look a little bit different, and possibly be more alert, than a full-term newborn.

There can be a couple of issues with post-term pregnancies, though, and that's what those ultrasounds and fetal heart monitoring tests in your doctor's office are looking for. For one thing, your baby is probably still gaining weight, and a bigger baby makes for a more difficult delivery. At the other end of the spectrum, since your placenta isn't meant to last this long it could start degrading, in which case your baby could actually start losing weight and end up malnourished.

Another concern is that the longer your little one is in there, the more likely it is the baby will have bowel movement before birth. If this meconium (the earliest bowel movements for newborns) is passed into the amniotic fluid, the baby can inhale it, which is dangerous. If your water breaks and it's tinted green, that tint could mean meconium, and you should get to the hospital as soon as possible.

So, at 42+ weeks, rushing may be in order. It's therefore more important than ever for your partner to be on the alert …

What Your Partner Should Know

Partners, it's time to make that dry run to the hospital if you haven't yet. Labor is imminent. It could, and hopefully will, happen at any minute, and when it does, you should be extra prepared just in case there turns out to be a reason to hurry. The slight increase in complications once a pregnancy goes post-term is cause for some extra attention to the pregnant lady, the hospital route, and the installation of the car seat that's somehow still in the box.

Check in with her -- a lot. It can be a burden, still being pregnant at 43 weeks, and it can take an emotional and physical toll. Be attentive: Is your back OK? How's the baby's activity in there? Can I do the dinner preparations tonight and make the least heartburn-inducing meal imaginable?

You're needed more than ever, because one way or another, she's almost definitely going to deliver this week, as very few caregivers will let a woman go 43 weeks without strongly recommending induction. And that's something to talk about together, if there are reservations regarding the procedure …

Some Things to Consider

Doctors induce labor every day. It's not the most natural way to go into labor, but it's considered safe and, in the case of a post-term pregnancy, a smart option.

It can be a bit scary, having labor induced (and typically a huge relief at this point in the pregnancy), if only because you're medically triggering something that "should" happen naturally. Talk about any fears you have with your doctor, and get the details. If you decide to be induced, what will probably happen is one of three things:

  • Sweeping of the membranes -- This is a simple procedure performed when the cervix is already softened and thinned (ready for labor). It involves detaching the amniotic sac from the cervix, which hopefully triggers the release of a natural labor-inducing hormone.
  • Breaking the water -- In this procedure, the caregiver will rupture the amniotic sac, hopefully triggering labor.
  • Pitocin -- This drug is a synthetic form of the labor-inducing hormone oxytocin. It's administered intravenously and typically causes labor to start within hours.

One of the most important things to consider at this point is that the incidence of fetal complications does increase after 42 weeks. Most experts believe that the benefits of inducing labor once you go post-term outweigh any perceived drawbacks of outside intervention.

And, at last, a few things you don't need to think too much about…

Don't Worry If…

It's about time, baby!
It's about time, baby!

At 42+ weeks, you really don't need to be weighed down by anything non-essential, and that includes some concerns you may have about your current post-term state. If you can help it, try not to stress if:

  • You want that baby OUT of you. You're not a bad mommy. You're a human being who's been carrying another human being inside her for nearly a year.
  • The baby has grown too big to deliver vaginally. If your baby has continued to put on weight all this time, there's a chance your doctor will recommend a C-section. Don't sweat it too much. The procedure doesn't carry the extended recovery time it used to (and your baby will have such a well-shaped head).
  • This is messing up your careful plans. If you have planned on a home birth, post-term issues may be pushing you toward relocating to the hospital since you or your baby may need some extra medical attention. If this seems like the wisest move, try hard not to rue the reorganization of your perfectly imagined birth. These things seldom go exactly as planned, and it will be miraculous no matter where it happens.

This week, as in every other week of your pregnancy, the most important goal is to keep everyone healthy. If you trust your caregiver, discuss your options and seriously consider the expert's advice. Once you have that baby in your arms, you probably won't think much about how you got there.

For more information on pregnancy, parenting and related topics, look over the links on the next page.

Related Articles

More Great Links

Sources

  • Post Term Pregnancy. Baby Med. (June 20, 2011) http://www.babymed.com/postdates-post-term-pregnancy
  • Post-term Pregnancy. Health.com. (June 20, 2011) http://www.health.com/health/library/topic/0,,tn9759_tn10064,00.html
  • Overdue pregnancy: What to do when baby's overdue. Mayo Clinic. (June 20, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/overdue-pregnancy/PR00116
  • Pregnancy: What to Expect When You're Past Your Due Date. Family Doctor. (June 20, 2011) http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/women/pregnancy/labor/143.html
  • Sago, Sally. "What is a membrane sweep?" Baby Centre. January 2009. (June 24, 2011) http://www.babycentre.co.uk/pregnancy/labourandbirth/labour/membranesweepexpert/