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Your baby is overdue

Pregnancy normally lasts about 40 weeks. Most women go into labour within a week either side of this date, but some women go overdue.

  • If your labour doesn't start by the time you are 41 weeks pregnant, your midwife will offer you a 'membrane sweep'. This involves having a vaginal examination, which stimulates the neck of your womb (known as the cervix) to produce hormones that may trigger natural labour. You don't have to have this – you can discuss it with your midwife.
  • If your labour still doesn't start naturally after this, your midwife or doctor will suggest a date to have your labour induced (started off). If you don't want your labour to be induced, and your pregnancy continues to 42 weeks or beyond, you and your baby will be monitored. Your midwife or doctor will check that both you and your baby are healthy by giving you ultrasound scans and checking your baby's movement and heartbeat. If this shows any concerns, your doctor and midwife will again suggest that labour is induced.

Induction is always planned in advance, so you will be able to discuss the advantages and disadvantages with your doctor and midwife, and find out why they think your labour should be induced. It's your choice whether to have your labour induced or not.

You may be offered induction of labour earlier if you have complications in your pregnancy or if you are aged 40 or over.

Pregnancy beyond 42 weeks

Most women go into labour spontaneously by the time they are 42 weeks pregnant. If your pregnancy lasts longer than 42 weeks and you decide not to have your labour induced, you should be offered increased monitoring to check your baby's wellbeing.

There is a higher risk of stillbirth or fetal compromise (your baby's health being put at risk) if you go over 42 weeks pregnant, but not every pregnancy over 42 weeks is affected this way. At the moment there is no way to find out which babies might be affected, so induction is offered to all women who don't go into labour by 42 weeks.

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