Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Pregnancy: What to
expect when your due date has passed
When is a
pregnancy considered overdue?
A pregnancy is usually completed in 38 to 42
weeks. "Post-term pregnancy," "prolonged pregnancy" and "post-date pregnancy"
are all words used to describe a pregnancy that lasts beyond 42 weeks. About 5%
of pregnancies are post-term.
How is my due date
Your due date is estimated on the basis of the
first day of your last period and on the size of your uterus (womb) early in
your pregnancy. An ultrasound (also called a sonogram) may also give your doctor
information about how far along your pregnancy is.
A reliable way to know your due date is to count
from the first day of your last period. However, many women cannot remember the
first day of their last period and are not sure when they got pregnant. In
addition, it's usually hard to figure an accurate due date if you get pregnant
soon after you stop taking birth control pills.
An early pelvic exam to measure the size of the
uterus can be helpful. If you're not sure about the date of your last period or
your uterus is smaller or larger than expected, an early ultrasound exam is
What if my
pregnancy goes 1 week past the due date?
If your pregnancy lasts 1 week or more past your
expected due date, your doctor will usually begin checking your baby more
closely. Your doctor may check your baby's heartbeat by using an electronic
fetal monitor, once or twice a week. In addition, an ultrasound exam might be
done to look at the amniotic fluid around your baby. Ultrasound can also be used
to see how much your baby is moving. You should continue to feel your baby move
throughout your pregnancy. Decreased fetal movement may be a sign that you need
to call your doctor.
In addition, your doctor may begin checking your
cervix to see if it's dilated and thinned. Your doctor may also recommend
inducing (starting) labor.
What if my
pregnancy goes 2 weeks past the due date?
Many doctors induce labor if a woman is 2 weeks
past her due date. This is to avoid complications, such as fetal distress or a
baby that gets too large to deliver easily. Fetal distress occurs when the baby
doesn't get enough oxygen. Then the baby's heart rate drops, and the baby can't
tolerate the stress of labor.
If the cervix is closed and is not favorable for
inducing labor, and the results of all of the tests of the baby are completely
normal, some doctors will allow the pregnancy to go on for 1 more
How will my
doctor induce labor?
Labor can be induced in some women by using a
medicine called oxytocin (brand name: Pitocin), which causes contractions to
start. Oxytocin is given through your veins. It starts to work in 1 to 2
Labor can also be induced in some women by
"breaking the water," or rupturing the membranes that hold the amniotic