OK, we've all been there. You're at the end of your pregnancy and you're supremely uncomfortable. You can't sleep, can't eat more than two bites at a time, and require assistance standing and sitting and walking. It feels like this baby is never going to get here and you're going to be pregnant forever. But, that's not possible. Right? When you're at the height of pregnancy-related annoyances, you might find yourself asking, "Is it possible to never go into labor?" And honestly, the answer is surprising.
"Yes," Dr. Lakeisha Richardson, OB-GYN, tells Romper. "It is absolutely possible to never go into active labor." Some women will have a spontaneous rupture of membranes with no active labor and have to be induced, she explains. Other women are induced because they reach a gestational age where it is too risky to continue the pregnancy. "If a woman has not gone into labor by 41 or 42 weeks," Richardson says, "most doctors will elect to induce them to prevent the risk of a stillbirth. If given more time, of course, they may actually go into spontaneous labor, but there is a higher chance of having a bad outcome." Many doctors prefer to just err on the side of caution.
We all know due dates are just an estimate — there's no real way to know when your little one is actually going to arrive. According to Fit Pregnancy, most first-time mothers give birth at an average of just over 41 weeks pregnant. Mothers who have had a previous birth tend to deliver around 40 weeks and three days. And, as the magazine noted, about 10 percent of women remain pregnant for over 42 weeks. The problem arises, Fit Pregnancy mentioned, when women expect to go into labor on a certain date, and then feel that their bodies have failed when it doesn't happen that way.
According to a study in the Journal of Perinatal Education, about 50 percent of surveyed women are said to have had their labors induced. Much of this, the study noted, is due to women not being adequately knowledgable about what exactly needs to take place in their bodies in order for labor to start. It is much easier to say "no" to induction if the mother knows what exactly is taking place in her body those last few weeks of pregnancy.
However, as the study mentioned, there are instances where nature doesn't fully take its course and induction is much safer for mom and baby than waiting.
The arrival of a baby is something that needs to be judged on a case by case basis. There is no one method or time of delivery that will work for every body, every mother, and every baby. As noted by The Guardian, there are risks with both induction and extended pregnancies, but since every birth varies, there's no real way to tell which will be affected by risks or not. And, because so few women forgo inductions in order to carry past 42 weeks, there is very little current research on the effects of extended pregnancies on deliveries.
As mentioned earlier, due dates are just estimates. In reality, length of pregnancy varies woman to woman. When it comes down to it, you and your doctor have to come to a decision that works for your specific pregnancy. And yes, the end of your pregnancy can feel never-ending. You are desperate for some comfort and to meet your sweet babe. But, your body likely knows just what it's doing, and barring any true emergencies, things will get going in due time. All you can really do is sit back, try to relax, and binge on yet another Netflix show.