Okay, so you’re 41 weeks pregnant and you’re beginning to fret. You’ve gone to your practitioner last week, and the baby’s things are all prepared. But for some reason, you’re still pregnant. Don’t worry. Pregnancy will soon be over in a week or less.
In these last few weeks of pregnancy, your baby is actually producing stress hormones to induce labor and birth. That means your baby doesn’t need you to add more stress factors to the situation. You’re also not alone since due dates are really off the mark by a week most of the time, and about half of pregnant women go well into the tenth month.
However, you should expect your practitioner to discuss about the possibility of inducing labor next week if you don’t give birth in the next few days.
Inducing labor means using techniques to bring about contractions. This is done when you or baby are at risk. These are some common reasons:
One case would be when baby is overdue at 42 weeks. There’s a host of problems if baby overstays. Topmost is the greater risk of stillbirth. The risk is even higher if you have history of previous still birth. If you’re in the high-risk category to begin with (due to chronic illnesses like diabetes, kidney disease or high blood pressure), being overdue puts your health at risk too.
Another case is when the placenta has too little amniotic fluid left or is not functioning properly. Baby will not survive if the placenta fails.
If your water already broke but you still haven’t given birth, both you and baby are at risk of infection.
If you develop preeclampsia, this endangers your health and restricts blood flow to your baby.
With baby overstaying in the womb, he or she is most probably putting on more weight. If baby gets too big inside, there’s also a big chance of getting a C-section.
Methods of inducing labor can be natural or with use of medication. You might want to try these natural methods this week to avoid using medication next week. Here’s how:
Sex. No scientific evidence proves this is effective in any way. But many women have attested to going into labor a few hours after having sex. Maybe because the orgasm releases oxytocin, the hormone needed to promote labor.
Nipple stimulation. In much the same way as an orgasm releases oxytocin, the same thing happens when the nipples are stimulated. This can be done by massaging the areolas. If you’re breastfeeding a toddler, oxytocin is also released when baby sucks for feeding.
Acupuncture. This is traditional Chinese medicine using needles. An Australian research on the relation of labor after acupuncture resulted in 88% success rate. If you’re willing to try this, make sure you get an expert.
Acupressure or induction massage. This can be done by a traditional Chinese medical practitioner or an experienced therapist. As a massage, it helps you relax your body to ease tension. The difference is, this massage works on the body’s pressure points, which are normally avoided during pregnancy because they trigger labor.
Natural stimulants. Some liquids and foods are said to induce uterine contractions. You might want to try one or some of them:
Evening Primrose Oil (EPO) – can be taken orally orinternally and comes in capsule form, best if started at 36 weeks
Castor Oil – this is known to cause diarrhea and is only advised if you’re suffering from constipation while overdue
Black Cohosh – an herb known to encourage contractions, consult an expert for the correct dosage
Raspberry Leaf Tea – considered a uterine tonic, again consult an expert for correct dosage
Curry or any spicy food – the spice can get your tummy rumbling and your labor starting
Date – the date fruit’s effect was investigated in a study and resulted in 96% spontaneous labor when taken for 4 weeks (6 fruits per day)
Membrane sweep or stretch and sweep.
This is an invasive method performed by a midwife or qualified medical practitioner. It involves inserting the cervix with a finger. The finger is swept around the cervix to separate it from the membranes of the amniotic sac that surrounds your baby. The separation is known to release prostaglandins that may jump-start labor. If a sweep is not possible, your cervix will be massaged or stretched so that a sweep can be possible. The procedure may or may not cause discomfort. Chances of labor may occur within 48 hours.
Now, if none of these work to spontaneously induce labor this week, expect administration of prostaglandin (such as dinoprostone or misoprostol) or administration of synthetic oxytocin preparation (such as pitocin) next week. Be sure to discuss all options with your practitioner so you can decide what’s best for you.
What else to do while 41 weeks pregnant?
Keep yourself busy during the day. Stay upright and walk to help things going. Gravity will help you pull your baby towards the birth canal if you keep upright, and the walking will work out the muscles in your pelvis. If you can, climb up and down stairs. The longer, the better. This activity can trigger contractions and the exercise can do you a lot of good in coping with labor when it actually starts. But don’t do this like it’s a workout. You can accomplish all these by going window-shopping in the mall, going to a museum or art gallery, going around the park, or sight-seeing. This way, you also distract yourself from the worries of your overdue pregnancy.
In the evening, get lots of rest. It can’t be all exercise. Your body needs to recover from the stress. Besides, you’ll need the energy when you’re going through active labor. So while in bed, talk to your bump, read stories to it at night, or listen to classical music. This will also help your baby recognize your voice.
So take heart! Being 41 weeks pregnant can’t be all that bad. Before you know it, you’re into your few weeks of motherhood and you’ll actually miss being pregnant.