Your baby is overdue: what’s happening
If your baby is overdue, your baby is still likely to be going well, even at 41 weeks of pregnancy. On the other hand, you might be tired, uncomfortable – and ready to meet your baby.
During this time, your doctor or midwife will probably recommend regular tests to check on your health and your baby’s health. These tests might include an ultrasound to check the amniotic fluid index and an ultrasound to check your baby’s biophysical profile.
These tests can help you and your doctor to decide on the safest options for you and your baby.
If the tests show that your baby is fine and your health is good, you might choose to wait and see whether labour starts naturally. It’s rare for babies to die unexpectedly, even after 42 weeks of pregnancy.
In some situations, your doctor or midwife might suggest an induction of labour or a caesarean. For example, this might happen if an ultrasound shows that your placenta isn’t supplying as much oxygen and as many nutrients to your baby as it was or if there are other concerns about you or your baby.
Your baby’s movements should be regular and strong. If you notice a change in your baby’s movements or you’re at all worried, call your doctor, midwife or local maternity hospital straight away.
About induction of labour or ‘being induced’
Induction of labour – or ‘being induced’ – is when your doctor or midwife uses drugs or special techniques to get your labour to start.
Induction of labour is common and usually happens in a hospital.
When you might need induction of labour
Your doctor or midwife might recommend induction of labour in these situations:
- You’re 41 weeks pregnant or more.
- You have health concerns, like gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia.
- Your baby is unwell or there are other concerning signs – for example, changes to your baby’s heart rate or growth.
- Your waters have broken, but you haven’t started to have contractions.
- Your labour has started but is progressing too slowly.
Deciding about induction of labour
You’ll be able to make the best decisions when you have the right information about your health and your baby’s health.
If you feel you need to know more, it’s important to ask a member of your health care team about:
- why the doctors and midwives think you need an induction of labour
- how an induction will affect you and your baby – that is, the risks and benefits
- what could happen if your baby isn’t induced and you wait for labour to start by itself
- what the doctors and midwives will do during induction, including how they’ll care for you and your baby
- how long it will take to do an induction
- how long it will take for labour to start after an induction
- how your contractions might feel or change once labour starts.
Once you have all this information, you might still choose to ‘wait and see’ whether labour starts naturally.
If you decide that you don’t want to have an induction of labour, talk with your doctor or midwife so they can try to support your choices. They can also give you more information and help you to understand your situation, so that you can make a fully informed decision.
What happens when you’re induced
If you choose to go ahead with an induction of labour, your doctor or midwife will do a vaginal examination to feel whether your cervix is ready for labour.
This check can be a bit uncomfortable, but it should take only a few minutes.
If your cervix isn’t ready for labour, your doctor or midwife will usually recommend a method of induction that’s like the natural hormones that bring on labour. Or they might suggest a procedure to soften or open your cervix, or a combination of both.
Common methods of induction include:
- membrane sweep
- artificial rupture of membranes
- cervical ripening balloon catheter
It’s important to ask your doctor or midwife about all your options and decide together on the best options for you.
Some pregnant women feel fine about being induced, whereas others feel disappointed or sad that labour didn’t start by itself. Whatever your feelings, it can help to talk them through with your partner, family, friends and health care professionals.
Possible disadvantages of being induced
There are a few common disadvantages of induced labour:
- Contractions can be more painful so there’s a higher chance that you’ll need extra pain relief like an epidural. An epidural might increase the chance that you’ll need help to birth your baby. This might include forceps or vacuum.
- Your chance of having above-average blood loss after birth is higher.
- Your chance of having a caesarean section is higher if it’s your first baby.
- Your chance of having a caesarean section is higher if your labour is induced for a reason other than pregnancy lasting longer than 41 weeks.
- Sometimes an induction doesn’t work in getting your body to go into labour.
Also, your baby’s heartbeat will be monitored with special equipment during your labour. Depending on the equipment, it can be harder for you to move around or use the bath or shower for pain relief.
It’s natural to be thinking about these disadvantages and how you’ll cope during labour. Talk to a member of your health care team so that you feel comfortable you’re making the right decision for yourself and your baby.