Your body starts preparing for labor at least a month before your due date. However, what induces labor and why is it different (in terms of duration) for expecting mothers, is a question not yet answered. But if there is no sign of labor beyond 40 weeks of pregnancy it definitely meaning is not right. This article discusses the possible reason for a late labor.
According to the doctors, post-term births are more likely due to irregular menstrual cycles. Also, since the due date is calculated on the basis of ultrasound scan, there are less likely chances of miscalculation and this possibility can be safely ruled out. Although, generally speaking, the third trimester is from 37 to 42 weeks, and a pregnancy is not considered overdue until after 42 weeks.
Your Baby – at 40 Weeks
At officially full-term, your baby weighs around seven and a half pounds and measures 19-22 inches. Your baby can be smaller but equally and perfectly healthy.It is completely developed and the hair and nails are growing every day. The skull bones haven’t fused together so that they can overlap and assist in coming through the birth canal, during the labor. He/she can search for the thumb and also suck it. The immune system of your baby is also strengthening.
You – at 40 Weeks
You, the mother of this reluctant child are irritated by all the questions your friends and family are asking you and anxious because of the delay. With no contraction at 40 weeks pregnancy, you have the liberty to be slightly stressed. But, you need to understand that even if you and your baby are ready, your body might just need that extra week. So, you need to relax and keep in touch with your doctor.
Signs of Labor
As there is no knowledge of what might trigger labor, there are few signs that you can observe.
You may find the sudden urge to clean your house and also end up doing so. It is Mother Nature’s way of telling that you are ready to bring your baby to a clean house. Also, once the baby is delivered, you may not have time to clean your house and baby-proof it. House-work is a good exercise and can induce labor.
Dropping or Lightening
A few weeks before labor, you may have less heartburn. But, you may also feel more pressure in your pelvic area. You may notice some swelling in your legs and your abdomen will look lower. This is caused due to ‘lightening’ or ‘dropping’, that is, your baby settling down nearer to the cervix. It releases pressure from your diaphragm and you can breathe easily and eat more. In case this is not your first baby, dropping may occur just before labor.
Braxton Hicks Contraction
A cramped, menstrual-like feeling, along with intense contractions, are often signs of pre-labor. Sometimes, as the labor is nearing, you may feel strong and painful but consistent contractions. If the intensity of contractions is not increasing, you may be experiencing a ‘false labor’. Breathing in a rhythm, or lying down on your left side, can relieve the discomfort caused due to contractions. Drink a lot of water and try urinating. It will release some pressure and reduce cramping.
Word of Advice
If you have contractions every 5 minutes and it lasts for one minute, you must go to your nearest hospital.
Change in Cervix
In your prenatal check-up in the third trimester, your physician may do a vaginal exam to check for changes in your cervix. You will notice that during the 40th week of pregnancy, your cervix starts to soften. This is to assist in delivery. If you have given birth before, your cervix may be dilated to 1 – 2 centimeter, and may not mean the start of labor.
A jelly-like substance called mucus, seals your cervical canal during the nine months of pregnancy, to avoid any kind of bacteria from entering the uterus. Loosening of this mucus plug often referred to as ‘bloody show’, can be a sign of the onset of labor. The plug may come out as a lump or as increased discharge over several days. A vaginal exam can also cause you to loosen the plug, and may not actually indicate labor.
Baby Monitoring Tests
It is always best to consult your doctor if you detect any of the above-mentioned signs. Your doctor will suggest some tests to monitor fetal development.
A Cardiff Count to Ten is the most common method that the doctors resort to, for checking baby movements in the 40th week of pregnancy. In this method, the doctor monitors your baby’s movement and records the start and stop time on the kick chart, until ten kicks are reached. On an average, if your baby’s kicks reach ten movements in less than two hours, you can relax. Your baby is absolutely healthy.
The doctor will measure your baby’s heart rate, movements, breathing, muscle tone, and the amount of amniotic fluid around him/her, through a non-stress test and an ultrasound to make a detailed biophysical profile
Two belts will be placed on your abdomen to monitor the baby’s heart rate and your contractions. You will be given a button to press whenever you have a contraction, and a paper will simultaneously print out your baby’s reaction. This will help the doctor to gain an insight of your baby’s well-being.
Inducing Labor or Contractions
There are many medical and natural ways to induce labor. However, before you resort to any of these methods, do not forget to consult your physician. After 40 weeks of pregnancy, if you still have no signs of labor, your doctor may suggest inducing labor medically by:
- Stripping the membrane
- Breaking water using a plastic hook
- Hormone prostaglandin through IV
- Hormone pitocin through IV
However, the choice is yours. You can refuse, and wait to start contractions naturally.
Natural Way of Inducing Labor or Contractions
- Walking: Gravity, moving of your hips, and pressure of the baby’s weight might induce your cervix to efface.
- Sex: Sperms contain the hormone prostaglandin, that can dilate the cervix and trigger contractions.
- Alternative Therapies: Acupuncture or Acupressure can stimulate contractions.
- Massage: Massage release Oxycontin, a hormone that is very important to kick-start a labor.
- Herbs and Natural Supplements: Evening primrose oil capsules or red raspberry leaves are believed to trigger contractions.
How to Deal with Overdue Pregnancy
If in the 40th week of pregnancy, every day you feel that ‘this is the day’ and it just passes by, you are not alone. As per studies, less than 10% births actually happen on the due date. Rests are either preterm or post-term or around 1-2 weeks around the due date. So, you belong to a very broad category. However, it is important that you patiently, and without any stress, prepare yourself for the forthcoming (and very tiring!) motherhood.
- Relax: Avoid being alone. Spend time with your friends and family. Take up some DIY project or rent some movies that you have always wanted to see. Whatever you do, the goal must be to distract yourself from worrying too much.
- Nap: Sleep as much as you can, because once your sweet little angel is born, you are deemed to be sleep-deprived.
- Meditate: Try sitting in an open area and meditate. It will relax you and your baby. Also, some fresh air has the magical power of energizing and will help you in having positive thoughts.
- Shop: Nothing like shopping to keep yourself busy. Shop for things for your tiny tot or to decorate his/her room and prepare to give him a very warm welcome.
Important Checklist at 40 Weeks of Pregnancy
- Keep your cell phone and camera battery charged.
- Have your doctor’s number on speed dial.
- Arrange for child and pet care.
- Make sure your care has enough gas to reach the nearest hospital.
- Make sure that your hospital-stay-bag has everything you need in it.
Hence, being 40 weeks pregnant and still having no signs of labor is something that shouldn’t bother you now. Until the time your labor starts, try to keep yourself happy and healthy by following a healthy diet. All the best!!!
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.