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Overdue pregnancy

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

The parenting charity NCT says only around 5% of babies arrive on their due date. Many babies arrive late. So if your due date has come and gone, don't worry. Here's what you need to know.

What happens when you're overdue

If you reach the 41st week of pregnancy, you'll have an appointment with a midwife or obstetrician who will check that your due date seems right by discussing when you had your last period and how regular your monthly cycles were before you became pregnant. They may also refer to any early ultrasound scans you had to ensure that your baby's size seemed correct at the time.

Your baby may also be felt through your bump - the midwife or obstetrician will check the baby's position and size. They may also ask whether you would like an internal examination, where they'll check the position of your cervix and whether it seems soft and stretchy, and is beginning to flatten or open, which means it's getting ready for labour.

Going a few days overdue will not harm the baby. It's a good idea not to become too fixated on your due date during pregnancy and try not to plan everything around it.

If you do go overdue, talk to your midwife about trying these tips and any other suggestions they have for kick-starting labour.

Membrane sweep

At your 41-week appointment, you may be offered a membrane sweep. This will be done by a doctor or midwife who, while giving you an internal examination, will sweep a finger around the neck of your womb.

This is done to try to separate the membranes around the baby away from your cervix, which releases hormones that can encourage labour to start.

The procedure is safe and there's no increased risk of infection. Research has shown that overdue women who have a membrane sweep are more likely to go into labour within 48 hours than those who don't have one.

Natural ways to get labour moving

Although these activities have not generally been researched for their effectiveness, many mums found these activities may have helped to kick-start their labour (even if they don't work, you'll have fun trying):

  • Taking a walk - this kind of gentle exercise may also get things moving.
  • Gently rubbing your nipples - this triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin, which can help trigger contractions when you're close to labour.
  • Sex (without a condom) - semen contains prostaglandin, which may help to ripen the cervix and bring on labour. Sex shouldn't do any harm, unless you've been told to avoid it - for example, if you have a low-lying placenta.
  • Eating a hot curry - this works on the principle that stimulating your stomach and bowels may also help to stimulate your womb into contracting.

Always seek the advice of your doctor or midwife before trying any of these activities to kick-start labour.

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Reviewed on September 25, 2015

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