It can be frustrating and uncomfortable to go past your due date and I am often asked “won’t the baby come when he or she is ready?” Unfortunately, the answer to this question is no. Babies can be born prematurely for reasons that are unclear and sometimes labor doesn’t start when it should. Even in very accurately dated pregnancies (using first trimester ultrasound or knowing the date of conception) approximately 7% of babies will go 2 weeks past the due date. We don’t know why this happens, but we do know that there are significant risks for your baby if it does.
A baby that goes 2 weeks past the due date has twice the risk of dying before delivery or soon after delivery than a baby born at term. A past due baby is also at increased risk for having low Apgar scores and an abnormal pH of the blood at delivery. New evidence suggests that the risks for older mothers who are past term may occur earlier than for younger mothers.
There are also risks to you when you go past your due date including double the risk of severe injury to the perineum during delivery, and double the risk of cesarean section, not to mention the anxiety and discomfort associated with going late.
For these reasons, we will want to monitor you closely (antepartum testing) if you go past your due date and try to get you delivered before you are 2 weeks late or sooner if you are older.
The decision to induce your labor will be made based on a number of factors which your doctor will discuss with you. It is more challenging to induce labor with your first baby than with a second or third. It is more challenging to induce labor when the cervix is not ready or “ripe”, and we know that we might increase the risk for cesarean section by inducing labor in some cases. So the decision to induce is always made taking into account the benefits versus the potential risks of waiting for labor to happen spontaneously. We have safe and effective means to get labor started and we will discuss the process in detail with you should you find yourself going past your due date.