It can be depressing to see your due date come and go with no sign of labour. Although the majority of babies arrive after the due date, mostly within 10 days, waiting for the first sign of labour can seem like the longest part of your pregnancy. Do not be too despondent, and keep filling your diary with things to do in the days following the expected date of delivery to take your mind off things.
Get your midwife to check the date when your baby is due, working from the last day of your period or from your scan. At the beginning of pregnancy, the odd day here or there does not seem very important, but when you have a date to be induced it can make all the difference!
Effects on your baby
The placenta, which is your baby's source of nutrition, will eventually start to age and not work as well if your baby is very overdue. If the placenta does not function properly, your baby may not be getting all of the nourishment that she needs.
Nobody can say exactly when your labour is supposed to start because a 'normal' gestation is anywhere between 37 and 42 weeks of pregnancy. If you do not want to be induced, talk to your obstetrician or midwife. They should offer to monitor your baby's heartbeat at least twice a week with an electronic monitor, and to measure the fluid around your baby with ultrasound. You will also be advised to monitor your baby's movement as a guide to her wellbeing. Women are usually offered an induction of their labour 7-14 days after their due date.
Getting labour started
If you are past your due date, there are things you can try to get labour going. None of these methods will trigger labour unless your baby is ready to be born but, if you have had problems during your pregnancy, such as bleeding or the threat of premature labour, check with your midwife or doctor first.
Nipple stimulation: Use a shower attachment or a breast pump to stimulate your nipples. This may encourage your body to release the hormone oxytocin, which makes your uterus contract and sets off labour. You would probably need to do this for several hours, several times a day, but it is worth a try!
Sex: After making love, lie down for as long as you can with your legs raised on a couple of pillows. This allows the semen to bathe the cervix, which can help to soften it and encourage labour to start.
Semen is a natural source of the hormone prostaglandin, which is used in hospitals to induce labour.
Orgasm: If neither you or your partner feel like sex, which is not uncommon towards the end of pregnancy, masturbation can help labour. When aroused, your body releases the hormone oxytocin, which can cause your uterus to contract, leading to labour. Reflexology There is a pressure point on the foot that can stimulate contractions of the uterus, but you should consult a qualified reflexologist about this.
Walking: Taking a long walk may encourage your baby in the right direction and also puts pressure on the cervix, which is good for getting labour going. Make sure that you are with someone and not in the middle of nowhere - walking around a shopping centre is just as effective as a walk in the country.
Spicy foods: If spicy foods are part of your normal diet, they probably will not get you going. The idea is to eat something that will loosen your bowels, which can irritate the uterus and kick start labour. Eating the contents of a fruit bowl or a few slices of raw courgette can often have the same effect.