The crib is ready, the tiny clothes are washed and folded, and you’ve taken every parenting class, including that one where you watched a woman give birth and questioned everything about your life. On the eve of your due date you snuggle — well, awkwardly plop — into bed and think, "Tomorrow at this time, I might be a mom." But your due date comes and goes, as do several more days, and still no baby. In addition to feeling every kind of uncomfortable, you begin to wonder, "What happens to your body when you go past your due date?"
Double board-certified OB-GYN and Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist Dr. Kecia Gaither tells Romper in an email interview that one of the first changes that begins to occur is the uterus will have more contractions, also known as Braxton Hicks, in preparation for real labor pains.
"The cervix will begin to shorten, dilate, and efface — or become thinner," she adds. "The placental function also begins to decline, thus limiting the amount of oxygen and nutrients going to the baby."
It sounds like a lot, but Gaither assures moms-to-be that all it signifies is that it’s time for doctors to up the ante when it comes to monitoring a pregnancy.
"Specifically, a fetal non-stress test looking at the baby's heart rate and an ultrasound to evaluate the movement, breathing, and the amount of amniotic fluid around the baby," she says. "This series of tests, known as a biophysical profile, are done to assure fetal well being, given the fact that it's known the placental function declines as you get further past the due date."
Emily Silver, a women’s health nurse practitioner and the co-founder of private nursing company Boston NAPS, says this period of time also calls for extra vigilance when evaluating a soon-to-be mother’s health.
"When a woman goes past her due date, you will often have an increase in discomfort related to back pain, heartburn, and hemorrhoids," Silver tells Romper in an email interview. "These physical discomforts of the body can be heightened due to the continued growth of the baby, and the pressure and demands it is placing on the body."
Silver says monitoring also includes watching for any signs of complications that may arise within a woman’s body, like high blood pressure.
One thing Gaither and Silver were both sure to mention was that if there are any signs of complications on the mother’s and/or the baby’s side, then a doctor will elect for an intervention, such as an induction or emergency C-section.
In the meantime, try some spicy foods or simple commands like, "Baby, let’s do this" and see if that helps induce labor. Can’t hurt, right?