Q&A: Past Due, When to Induce?

Dr. Elizabeth Pryor answers the question, Why would my doctor decide to induce?

Question

I'm already five days past my due date. Why am I still not in labor, and what would make my doctor decide to finally induce me?

Answer

The due date that is given to a patient is only an estimate. Five percent of patients actually deliver on their due date. We consider it normal if a patient delivers between 38 and 42 weeks. However, during the past few years, doctors have moved toward delivering at 41 weeks rather than 42 weeks. Only about 7 percent of patients are still waiting to deliver at 41 weeks.

Typically the doctor will perform a nonstress test to check the health of the baby once you are overdue. This entails placing a belt monitor around your belly to check the baby's heartbeat. This test is similar to performing an EKG on you. Typically, the doctor will perform this test twice a week after the 40th week, until delivery.

The other major factor is the status of the cervix, or the "mouth" of the womb. If the cervix is soft and somewhat dilated, then it is thought that the cervix is more prepared for labor. If the cervix is long and firm, the doctor may wait several days to allow nature to soften the cervix. However, doctors will generally move toward induction of labor at 41 weeks.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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