While pregnancy is commonly known to last up to nine months, you may have noticed that doctors track pregnancy by weeks and days. A mother’s due date is calculated as forty weeks from the last menstrual period. A normal or “term” pregnancy lasts from thirty-seven to forty-two weeks. However, only one in twenty women give birth on her due date. Some of them go beyond the normal duration, which is referred to as post-term pregnancy.
As much as possible, health-care providers guide pregnant women to deliver their babies at the expected period, and this is because a pregnancy that goes beyond forty-two weeks is associated with a number of health risks that affect both the mother and the unborn child.
Risk for Infection
Meconium aspiration is a common risk that many post-term fetuses face. This happens when an infant ingests amniotic fluid with meconium, or newborn feces, during delivery. This is extremely dangerous for the fetus, which not only puts the baby’s lungs at risk for infection and inflammation but also may lead to oxygen deprivation.
For the mother, meconium aspiration may put her at risk for critical medical issues such as bacterial infections, postpartum hemorrhaging, and perineum injuries. This condition may also prompt doctors to perform an emergency C-section to lower the risks and to deliver the baby safely.
Insufficient Nutrients for the Fetus
The placenta can only do so much throughout pregnancy. Typically, after thirty-seven weeks’ gestation, the placenta reaches its maximum size, and then its functions tend to reduce afterward. The longer the fetus stays in the uterus without proper oxygen and nutrition, all of which are delivered by the placenta, the higher its risk for a myriad of health problems.
Aside from oxygen deprivation, a post-term baby may acquire the risk for cerebral palsy and other learning disorders.
Larger Fetal Body Size
Since post-term fetuses stay in the uterus way past their due date, they may more likely continue to grow, increasing their risk of developing fetal macrosomia, a condition wherein an infant has a larger body size upon birth, weighing more than 8 pounds and 13 ounces or about 4,500 grams. For the child, macrosomia may increase the risk for developing serious medical conditions in the future, such as childhood diabetes, metabolic syndrome, or obesity.
Since the fetus measures larger than normal, this may put the mother at risk for problems such as uterine rupture, genital lacerations, or excessive bleeding after giving birth.
Management of Postterm Pregnancy
While going past your due date can lead to a wide range of complications, it’s not too late to start managing your pregnancy correctly and to help you give birth to a healthy baby.
To strictly monitor your pregnancy and your baby’s condition, your health-care provider may perform maternal and fetal testing. These tests will greatly help in detecting potential problems and in preventing or treating them as much as possible.
Common monitoring tests that you may undergo are fetal movement counting, which keeps track of fetal movements or “kicks” and identifies if the fetus is under stress; non-stress testing, which measures the fetal heart rate and determines signs of fetal well-being; and a biophysical profile, which is a nonstress test combined with the use of an ultrasound transducer to check on the fetal condition.
Depending on the results of these tests, your doctor may suggest having your labor induced or require a cesarean delivery. Whatever the case may be, your safety, as well as your baby’s, is the utmost priority. And while you can’t predict exactly when you will give birth, it’s always best to maintain a healthy pregnancy to keep the risks and complications at bay.
Newly middle-aged wife of 1, Mom of 3, Grandma of 2. A professional blogger who has lived in 3 places since losing her home to a house fire in October 2018 with her husband. Becky appreciates being self-employed which has allowed her to work from 'anywhere'. Life is better when you can laugh. As you can tell by her Facebook page where she keeps the humor memes going daily. Becky looks forward to the upcoming new year. It will be fun to see what 2020 holds.