I'm not an OB-GYN or a scientist or whatever, but in my experience the third trimester lasts roughly 3,000 weeks. And not only does it seem to last forever, but it's filled with worries, back aches, Braxton Hicks contractions, and that aching feeling that accompanies the sheer anticipation of meeting your mini-human. So, in my experience, it's worth knowing the signs your pregnancy is going past your due date, if only to help you and your loved ones set realistic expectations.
To find out more about late pregnancies, Romper spoke to Lise Hauser, DNP, APRN, CNM, an assistant professor of obstetrics in the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing at Loyola University of Chicago, Illinois., and Dr. Huma Farid, MD, an OB-GYN at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts. The good news? They know what they're talking about. The bad news? They agree there's no real way to know for sure if your baby will be born early, on time, or late.
"The due date is just a rough prediction of when a baby will be born. Less than five percent of babies are actually born on their due date," Farid tells Romper. "I counsel my patients that there really are no great signs to predict when people will go into labor, as in pregnancy, things can change so quickly — you can go from having no contractions one day to going into labor the next."
Hauser notes that there are a few signs that you are going to go past due, though, including making it to 40 weeks without your baby dropping, and some risk factors that make it more likely that your pregnancy will last longer than nine months. To find out what you should look for, and when you should worry, read on:
Your Baby Hasn't Dropped
According to Hauser, most pregnant people experience a "lightening" feeling (also know as their baby dropping) or change in the appearance their baby bump, which indicates their baby has started to make its way towards the birth canal. "For first-time moms, if your baby is still high, and their head is not dipping below your pubis at 40 weeks, they are more likely to go past their due date," she says.
You're A First-Time Mom
Both Farid and Hauser noted that going past your due date is more common for first-time moms. "In general, many first-time mothers tend to go past their due date," Farid says, "Interestingly, women carrying a male fetus may also have an increased probability of going past their due date."
She adds that your provider might recommend induction or additional monitoring, to make sure both you and your baby are doing well. At our hospital, we offer additional testing, such as an ultrasound to check for baby's movement, breathing, and amniotic fluid levels,' she says. "For pregnancies that are one week past their due date, I offer my patients an induction of labor. If they decline, I do additional testing and recommend delivery by 42 weeks of gestation at the latest."
Your Cervix Is Staying Put
Hauser notes that if you haven't experienced any cervical changes at 40 weeks, you may be in for a longer pregnancy. "If your cervix is posterior, firm, long, and closed at 40 weeks, your provider might suggest induction before you reach 42 weeks," she says. "Going past 42 weeks can increase your risk of complications, including problems with your placenta, low amniotic fluid, your baby inhaling meconium, or stillbirth."
You *Know* Your Due Date For Sure
Hauser adds that your pregnancy going past your due date might actually be a matter of not having an accurate due date. "Unless you had a first trimester ultrasound, a regular 28-day cycle, or IVF, it's possible that your due date was calculated incorrectly to begin with," she says.
Your Previous Pregnancies Went Late
Farid adds that your previous pregnancies may predict how your current pregnancy will go. "If all of your prior pregnancies went past their due date, that's a good indicator that you will probably go past your due date again," she says.
"With people who've had more than one pregnancy, all bets are off when it comes to predicting if they will go past their due date." Hauser adds, "Though a long, closed, firm, posterior cervix would be pretty unusual even in a mom who's had previous pregnancies."
Your Baby Is Moving Less
Both Farid and Hauser agree that there are some warning signs later in pregnancy that should not be ignored. "If your baby stops moving as frequently, you should call your provider right away, as it might be a sign of distress." Hauser says. "You should ask your provider about fetal well-being testing, if you can be induced at term and your likelihood of a successful induction, based on a cervical exam."
While it's common for parents-to-be to go past their due date, Farid and Hauser both recommend induction to help things along if your pregnancy continues for too long.
"If you do not want an induction of labor, you should have a discussion with your obstetrician about how to safely monitor the pregnancy while you await natural labor," Farid says. "Most women will go into labor on their own before 42-weeks of gestation, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and most obstetricians recommend induction of labor if you go two weeks past your due date."