So you were given an estimated due date and it has come and gone. Don’t despair. It’s very common for women, especially in their first pregnancy, not to labour by their due date. However, most women will go into labour within a week of their due date. After this 10% of women will go into labour each day until 42 weeks. Most hospital’s will offer induction of labour for postdates between 7 and 14 days after your due date.
What can you do in the mean time?
Keeping active is a good way to get labour started. In simple terms if your babies head is pressing on your cervix it will cause contractions. So go for a long walk, bounce on a birthing ball. If the contractions start keep active and upright and this can help get you into labour.
There are many old wives tales about getting labour started. Do they work? Probably not. But a lot of them are safe and worth a try. Raspberry leaf tea, a hot curry, acupuncture. Sexual intercourse is thought to help get labour started for two reasons, semen causes a prostaglandin release that stimulates contractions and the actual process of sex causing contractions.
The National Institute of Clinical excellence recommends membrane sweep from 40 weeks for first time mums and from 41 weeks for women who have had a baby before. Do not google ‘what is a sweep’. It will frighten you! It is a vaginal examination where the doctor uses their finger to separate the membrane from the uterine wall. It’s a bit uncomfortable and feels like pressure but its not painful. It will only work if your body is ready for labour to start and your cervix has shortened and opened up enough to perform it. Most women will have a show after a sweep. However, it can result in your waters breaking and labour not starting. It may not work. My personal opinion is that it doesn’t work for first time mums. It may work for women on a subsequent pregnancy but I would only perform it if a woman requests it.
For women under the age of 40 with an uncomplicated pregnancy induction of labour is offered by 42 weeks gestation because the risk of stillbirth increases after this time. So if you’ve reached the stage where you need to be induced what should you expect? Well, it can take a few days so be patient and sleep when you can. You will have a vaginal examination by a doctor or midwife to decide on the method of induction. Options are prostin gel or propess a hormone pessary. These cause the cervix to shorten and open up so your waters can be broken. For some women labour can start just by giving prostin or propess. The next step is the break your waters. The final step is to give oxytocin through a drip to start contractions. There are a number of pain relief options during the induction of labour process including pethidine injections, entonox gas and an epidural. However there are some other natural methods of pain relief like a heat pack, taking a hot shower and letting the water run on your back, keeping mobile or bouncing on a birthing ball.
The most helpful advice I can give you is to keep an open mind. It’s all worth it in the end when you’re holding your baby.