At 41 weeks pregnant, it is considered a late-term pregnancy but is still within the normal range. Even though doctors estimate your due date to be at 40 weeks, it’s just that — an estimate.
As frustrating as it can be to continue to have to wait to welcome your new baby into the world, it’s completely normal. Many women have their babies later than they expected and come out of the experience healthy and happy.
Although it’s not unusual to go past your due date, at that point you and your doctor will probably want to start to think about how to get things moving along.
Reasons for a Late-Term Pregnancy
There are a few different reasons why you might have a late-term pregnancy:
- The due date was miscalculated.
- You’re pregnant with your first baby.
- You’re overweight.
- You’re having a boy.
- Your previous pregnancies went past 40 weeks.
Challenges of a Late-Term Pregnancy
When you are 41 weeks pregnant, you and your baby may have an increased risk of health problems, including:
Larger than average baby. Because your baby has had more time to grow, it will likely be larger than the average size during childbirth. This increases the risk of your baby's shoulder getting stuck behind your pelvic bone during delivery.
Late-term pregnancies increase the chance you may have to have an operative vaginal delivery or cesarean birth (c-section).
A cesarean delivery is a medical surgery where your doctor cuts through your belly and uterus and gently removes your baby. This procedure can help protect the health of you and your baby, and in some cases, is safer than a vaginal birth.
Postmaturity syndrome. If you go past the 41st week of pregnancy, your baby might start to have dry, peeling skin, overgrown nails, and less fat beneath the skin. There may be green, brown, or yellow staining from stool passed while still in the amniotic sac.
Low amniotic fluid. Amniotic fluid is the protective liquid contained by the amniotic sac that your baby grows inside of during pregnancy. As you have a late-term pregnancy, the amount of amniotic fluid gets gradually less, which can affect your baby's heart rate and compress the umbilical cord during labor.
Physical complications from late delivery. As a mother who is 41 weeks pregnant, when you give birth, you are at greater risk of experiencing severe vaginal tearing, infection, and postpartum bleeding.
Postpartum hemorrhage. If you are experiencing heavy bleeding after you give birth, it could be a postpartum hemorrhage. This is a rare but serious condition where the heavy bleeding from your vagina doesn’t slow or stop. This can cause blurred vision, chills and an overall feeling of weakness like you’re going to faint. If you think you might have a postpartum hemorrhage, call 911 right away.
What to Expect When You’re 41 Weeks Pregnant
If you reach 41 weeks in your pregnancy, your doctor will start to do tests on the baby. The most common tests are a non-stress test and ultrasound. When they’re completing the tests, they are looking at a few things in particular:
- To make sure the baby is active and healthy
- To check the amniotic fluid levels
- To check to see if your baby is having any problems
The goal is to keep both you and your baby safe while ensuring that you can deliver your baby sooner rather than later. This is important because once you reach the 41st week of pregnancy, the risk of complications during childbirth goes up.
How Doctors Induce Labor
If you do not go into labor on your own and it is past your due date, your doctor may recommend inducing labor. They will provide different treatments that will start or move your labor at a faster pace:
Medication. Your doctor may give you a medicine called oxytocin. This can cause you to have contractions to induce labor.
Medicine suppository. Sometimes your doctor will place a round or cone-shaped drug (suppository) into your vagina to help soften the cervix and help start labor.
Breaking your water. Your doctor may break the amniotic sac that your baby has been growing inside of, causing your water to break. This can be helpful in starting labor.
Catheter. To help your cervix to dilate, your doctor may place a tube with an inflatable balloon inside your vagina.
Whether your doctor or midwife recommends hanging in there for a few more days, or tells you it’s time to schedule an induction or c-section, keep good communication and be prepared. You’ll want to make sure you know exactly what to do if you go into labor and have a backup plan in case things change.