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40 weeks pregnant

You've made it to your due date, but don't expect baby to arrive today...

Posted: 14 May 2011
by Maria Muennich

40 weeks pregnant. We're here and the countdown is officially over, but where's baby? We know by know you feel that you've served your time and deserve to be holding your baby in your arms before the day is out, but your baby is quite likely to have other ideas. In fact, your little one won't be considered 'late' until you've gone ten days to two weeks beyond your due date (opinions and policies vary from hospital to hospital), and most doctors won't pencil in an due date, your doctor may want to have a double check of your dates and compare with any dating scans to see whether it may have been miscalculated. Miscalculation isn't as unusual as it sounds as your due date is calculated on a generic formula based on the first day of your last menstrual period, so the maths might misrepresent when you actually ovulated and conceived. If you had any evidence of when you ovulated (temperature charts, ovulation tests etc.) then take them along for your next check.

While you're probably anxious to have baby out, not just to hold her but also to finally have your body back to yourself, holding off a while with induction can be no bad thing. Medical induction can lead to more sudden and more painful contractions and a longer labour, which will increase the likelihood of you needing pain-killing drugs. Very strong contractions may also decrease the supply of oxygen available to your baby and so raise the risk of fetal distress, which is why CTG monitoring is often used alongside the various forms of induction. As a result, an induction can narrow your birthing options, raising the chance of further medical intervention (including caesarian section) and lowering your chances of a natural birth. This won't be an issue for some women, but others may prefer to try keep medical intervention to a minimum.

If the days pass slowly one-by-one and you're edging further towards a possible induction, then there are a few natural ways to bring on labour that you can try to see if you can give nature a helping hand. Some of the methods you may have heard about will just be old wives' tales, but others are rooted in reality, such as having sex. You might not feel like it at all right now (although, who knows, you may be keen to make the most of the chances before labour puts paid to any sex life for a good few weeks at least), but having sex can help to kickstart labour. Firstly, semen contains prostaglandins, which help to soften the cervix ready for dilation and secondly, having an orgasm stimulates the release of oxytocin, the 'love hormone', which can stimulate contractions. Nipple stimulation can also work similarly as it can prompt the release of oxytocin - however it can bring on strong contractions so do consult your midwive about how and if to try this. Another reliable helper is a good walk, which encourages the baby's head to press on the cervix and prompt the release of prostoglandin - don't overdo it mind you, you need to have plenty of energy left should labour get going! For more ideas to try and a few to avoid, take a read of our suggestions for bringing on labour.

More than anything else though, we recommend that you make the most of whatever time you've got to rest, relax and enjoy yourself.

Things to do this week

  • Have sex! - It may bring on labour and you won't get another chance for some time... If you're out of practice and need some ideas for comfortable positions then try here.

  • Update your diary /get ahead with cards - You're going to have precious little time to keep on top of your diary and remember birthdays etc. when baby is here, so why not go through your diary now and prepare a few cards or gifts for any important birthdays coming up in the next couple of months.

  • Have quality time - with your partner or other children. Make the most of the relative peace and quiet and the chance to give someone other than your little baby some attention.

  • Get out! - You might be confined to the house more than usual when baby is first there, so take every chance now to get out and about in the fresh air or take in an exhibition, museum, film, whatever.

  • Sort out your birth announcements - If you're going in for a formal announcement of your baby's birth then now is the time to research your options. There's a huge range of styles and prices on offer, and you won't feel much like deciding between them (nor have the time!) once baby's arrived.

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