You've just had a regular prenatal visit with your doctor/midwife. You've navigated your way through prenatal testing and birth plans, all the while trying to ask the right questions and make informed choices. Today, the Dr. drops a bombshell. "I won't LET you go past 41 weeks". She goes on to explain the increased risks of "overdue" pregnancies. "It's our policy to "induce" anyone who goes to 41 weeks". You're thinking, I remember hearing about this. Didn't Heather say she was induced because she was overdue? Her experience didn't sound very good. You leave the office a little stunned, trying to find your bearings and praying that you don't go "overdue"!
I call it "The Great Birth Sabotage"! So many women are cheated out of a natural, mind-body-soul birth experience because of these policies and restrictions on gestational age or pregnancy duration. What most people don't realize is that the risks increase only slightly from 40 weeks to 41 weeks to 42 weeks. What I find frustrating in all of this is that inductions carry risks too. These risks are either not disclosed at prenatal visits or they are downplayed.
For a thoughtful and comprehensive article on the risks associated with being "overdue" and inductions, go here.
What can you do then to avoid an induction if you are overdue?
Calculate a more accurate EDD. The Estimated Due Date is based on Naegele's rule* which assumes that your cycle is 28 days long. But, not every woman's cycle fits this model. Knowing your date of conception or taking into account the length of your cycles will help you be more accurate. You should discuss these with your doctor or midwife.
Negotiate or just say "no". The choice is yours. You don't have to submit to an induction at 41 weeks. Discuss with your doctor how you are feeling and negotiate for at least a full 42 weeks. So many "overdue" mothers left alone go into labor in the 41st week of pregnancy!
Go For Prenatal Testing. Prenatal testing is a great negotiation tool. You can agree to have Non-Stress Tests and other testing to satisfy the question of how your baby is doing in there beyond 40 weeks. Many doctors will accept this condition.
Practice Optimal Fetal Positioning. Sometimes babies will "hang around" a bit longer as they try to rotate into a more optimal position for labor and birth. For great resources on how to encourage your baby to settle into an optimal position for birth, go here.
Choose a Supportive Practitioner. Choosing a practitioner who is supportive of waiting at least 42 weeks for an "overdue" baby is a vital first step in avoiding the pressure of an "overdue induction".
Eat healthy foods and exercise or stay active throughout your pregnancy. Leading a healthy lifestyle will help keep your pregnancy healthy and low-risk, giving you a better chance of being a healthy overdue pregnant mama with a healthy "still-happy-in-the womb" baby! No danger = no need to induce!
Be patient! The end of pregnancy can feel very much like the homestretch of a race or marathon! It can be a very challenging time. Take care of yourself, rest, continue healthy lifestyle habits in your food and exercise, find fun things to do to take your mind off waiting and remember that in a matter of days, you will have a baby in your arms!
Look at the big picture. There may be other risk factors in your pregnancy that will affect this decision. Having a supportive practitioner who can help you weigh all the options for your specific situation is key.
Own your decision. Whether you decide to wait or choose induction, make sure that you are making an informed choice and that you are happy with your choice. No one can "make" you or "not let" you do anything. It really is up to you!
Wishing you an empowered birth experience!
*Naegele's rule: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naegele's_rule
**Image Credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=2019