Expert Advice

When your baby is overdue

Your due date has come and gone and while an induction may not be part of your birth plan, here’s what to expect if your baby needs a hurry-up.

By Fiona Wright
Once your due date has passed, you'll notice every little twinge and minor ache, looking for a sign you might be finally about to meet your bub.
But for many mums, nature needs a helping hand to set off labour, with of the 80% of women that labour (20% opt for an elective caeserean), 43.9% of them have their labour started or sped up. The most common method is via the drug Syntocin which promotes uterine contraction.
Here's what might happen if your doctor – or you – suggests getting things moving with an induction.
WHY THE HURRY?
The most common reason for having an induction is being overdue. An induction is when we don't wait for the normal onset of labour and we get the labour going with various so-called artificial means.
Inductions can be done for medical reasons relating to the baby's – or mum's – health, including being overdue, not growing properly or the mother having high blood pressure.
Typically, once you've reached 41 weeks your doctor will discuss the possibility of undergoing an induction by 10 days to two weeks after your due date.
At 41 weeks, your doctor will discuss the possibility of an induction. (Image: Getty Images)
PREPARING FOR ACTION
To get an induction going, you need an open cervix. If the cervix is open, you can proceed to do an induction. But if the cervix is not open enough, you'll need an initial preparatory step, otherwise the induction is less likely to work.
One way is to have a vaginal sweep of the membranes. Your midwife or doctor inserts a finger just inside your cervix and makes a circular motion to separate your baby's membranes from the cervix. This encourages the release of prostaglandins to help open the cervix. Or, once in hospital, a prostaglandin gel may be inserted into your vagina.
It's hoped this will soften your cervix. Sometimes it gets labour going or a balloon catheter can be inserted into the vagina where it sits above the closed cervix, gradually opening it overnight.
GAME ON!
The most common methods for induction involve artificially rupturing the membranes or a Syntocinon drip. Administered via intravenous drip, Syntocinon is a drug that's identical to oxytocin, the natural hormone that causes contractions. In the case of inductions, the amount given is gradually increased until labour is fully established.
If your labour slows down, an intervention known as 'augmentation of labour' may be used to speed up or increase the intensity. This process involves the same techniques as induction but is done after labour has started on its own.
A 'normal' labour is medically defined as one that's spontaneous and unassisted, is between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy and where the baby's head is in an anterior position – upside down and facing backwards. It lasts between four and 24 hours, requires no artificial intervention and has no complications.
If an induction is required, it won't be long before the wait is over and you meet your baby for the first time.
NATURAL METHODS
Keen to try other methods to kick-start labour? Try the following: drinking raspberry leaf tea, going for a brisk walk and stimulating your nipples may all help. Sex can also bring on labour – but don't go for this option if your waters have already broken, as it can increase the risk of infection.

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