"I wish this pregnancy would never end," said no woman ever. Indeed, no matter how relatively easy your pregnancy might be for the most part, by the time you're in the final stretch you're more than ready to move on from the experience. For one thing, you can't wait to meet the little person who's kicking you in the ribs all day; for another, you're so done with the backaches, heartburn, maternity underwear, and so much more. But it's not just about discomfort or inconvenience: What are the risks of an overdue pregnancy for both you and your baby?
First of all, you should know that when your baby is a few days (or even a week) late, this generally isn't cause for concern.
"No woman should feel nervous or anxious if she's still pregnant after her due date," Alex C. Vidaeff, M.D., M.P.H., a maternal-fetal medicine researcher and practitioner told Fit Pregnancy.
"Due dates can be off by a week in either direction," he added; even two weeks isn't uncommon. These dates are just an estimate, which is why a pregnancy isn't considered "postterm" until it extends past 42 weeks (the "normal" gestation period being 40 weeks). Still, because research has shown that delivery after 40 weeks is associated with various potential dangers, your doctor or midwife will probably start monitoring you more closely once you move into "overdue" territory.
These are some of the potential issues that might come up (though they might not, so don't freak out).
1The Baby Is Too Large
Little ones who stay inside longer than they're supposed to aren't always so little anymore by the time they come out... and that can be a big problem, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Being significantly larger than average at birth (known as fetal macrosomia) means moms are more likely to either need a C-section or experience difficult vaginal births involving tearing, blood loss, and/or the use of forceps or a vaccum, none of which sounds appealing. Also unappealing? The baby's shoulder could get stuck behind your pelvic bone (shoulder dystocia). Ouch.
2The Placenta Doesn't Work As Well
Throughout your pregnancy, your placenta has done an admirable job of supplying your baby with oxygen and nutrients. Unfortunately, a placenta ages like everything else... and by the time your due date rolls around it may not function as efficiently as before, according to Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. Poor oxygen supply to the baby can increase the risk of complications during labor and birth, so that's something your doctor will be keeping in mind.
3Low Amniotic Fluid
Just as you feel like you're running out of patience with being pregnant, your body is running low on important things like amniotic fluid. At the end of your pregnancy, amniotic fluid volume may decrease and the fetus may stop gaining weight (or even lose weight), according to the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. Another potential fluid-related issue: After 42 weeks, your baby has an increased risk for meconium aspiration (what happens when a baby breathes in fluid containing the first stool).
4Complications After Birth For Baby
The longer you have to wait for a reason to go to the hospital, the longer you might end up staying (in the NICU, that is). One study found that babies born after 42 weeks were approximately twice as likely to develop infections and respiratory problems requiring admission to the NICU than infants born at 39 to 40 weeks, reported WebMD.
Another condition that could need treatment, the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin noted, is hypoglycemia or low blood sugar (overdue infants sometimes don't have enough glucose-producing stores left).
5Complications After Birth For Mom
Like babies, mothers are also more vulnerable to complications following a postterm pregnancy, including a higher chance of experiencing wound complications, infection and postpartum hemorrhage, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Overall, it seems the risks of being born too early are greater than those of being born too late, so don't drive yourself crazy worrying about the date circled on the calendar. Someday, you'll be glad you had those extra mornings to sleep in!