It’s natural to be excited about D-day. As week 37 (this is when you’re considered full term) approaches, you start getting your hospital bag packed, run through your birth plan, and make sure you’re all prepped for labour.
But what if week 37 comes and goes, and so does week 38 and 39?
At week 40, you start to wonder if bubba will ever make his appearance. Sabrina Liew, mum to Jarrod, 2, recalls being “literally stretched to my (her) limit” at week 40. “My belly was so huge, I had problems sitting up and breathing, and my back and feet were constantly aching... Not to mention the crazy stretchmarks all over my skin!”
But besides the physical discomfort, Liew was also worried about her baby’s well-being. “I was driving myself crazy, checking if baby was still kicking, and wondering if there was something wrong with me, if there were contractions but I couldn’t feel them.”
Checks with her gynae though, found nothing for her to worry about. “My doctor just constantly reassured me that my baby was doing fine…but in the end, she left the decision whether to induce labour up to me,” shares Liew. She was induced at week 41 and gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
Why is baby late?
The EDD, or estimated due date given to you by your gynae is the likely time your baby should arrive, although not necessarily the best time for your baby to be born.
Notes SmartParents consultant ob-gyn Dr Christopher Chong, “There must be a working due date. While this has been put at 40 weeks, nature will dictate when the baby will be delivered.”
“Nature will dictate when the baby will be delivered.”
Dr Chong adds that most gynaes will not want a patient to deliver later than 41 weeks. “When the pregnancy reaches week 42, the risk of complications to the mummy and baby will be two to three times higher than delivering before 40 weeks.”
Labour may be triggered at the moment when your baby’s head is “engaged”, or has descended into the pelvic bone. When this happens, the baby’s head stimulates the cervix, causing hormones to soften it, after which the womb starts to contract.
“One reason for a delayed labour is in the case where the pelvic bones are too narrow, the stimulation of the cervix may not occur, or is delayed,” Dr Chong explains.
So, what health risks are posed to the mum and the baby if labour is delayed?
If the baby is overdue, it may result in increased health risks, says Dr Chong. “These include reduced growth, and reduced oxygen in the case where the foetus passes motion in the waterbag, causing asphyxia.”
In addition, an overdue baby will likely be larger, and it will be more difficult for the mum to go through a natural delivery. “This can cause foetal trauma and maternal trauma, especially to the pelvic floor. It may increase the risk of having a C-section,” Dr Chong adds.
An overdue baby will likely be larger, and it will be more difficult for the mum to go through a natural delivery.
A 2012 study from the International Journal of Epidemiology conducted in the Netherlands also found that babies born after 42 weeks were more likely to develop overall behavioural problems, and have more than twice the risk of facing Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Dr Chong shares that it’s his practice not to allow the patient’s pregnancy to go beyond 41 weeks. “A few days after the due date, I will start the induction process,” he says. He adds that there are some factors that may cause him to induce the expectant mum even before 40 weeks: A drop in the expectant mother’s weight, decreased foetal movement, low levels in the waterbag, or if the mum has other medical conditions such as hypertension. “Depending on severity, the mum can be induced any time after 37 weeks if needed, or if possible,” he says.
If you’re stressed that your baby is overdue, here’s what to do:
• Monitor your progress regularly with your gynae. He or she will check the foetal heartbeat, uterine contractions, as well as measure the water level.
• Monitor foetal movement Your baby should move, in the form of jabs, punches and kicks, at least 10 times over a 12-hour period.
• Natural methods to induce labour include going for walks, stimulating your nipples (to cause your uterus to contract), having intercourse, and doing squats. Dr Chong stresses, “Eating pineapples does not help!”
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