Mama, you’re a hero: you’re doing such a good job nurturing this baby that they’re in no hurry to leave. But at 42 weeks pregnant, the finish line isn’t too far in the distance.
We know you’re probably sick of people calling to see whether the baby has arrived yet. Yes, Grandma, it has been a long time hasn’t it…
So, switch off your phone, prop up those swollen ankles, and let’s chat about what it means to be 42 weeks pregnant.
Is 42 weeks of pregnancy normal?
At 42 weeks pregnant, you’re now a couple of weeks past your original due date. In other words, your pregnancy is officially “post-term” – essentially, your baby is a little slower to appear than predicted. But with 40% of women giving birth after their due date, you’re certainly not alone.
In fact, if your due date was miscalculated (as it often is) your baby may not be especially “late” at all. Your due date could be incorrect if you weren’t sure about the date of your last period, your periods are irregular, or you didn’t have a first trimester ultrasound scan. All these things make it difficult to pinpoint the right day for baby’s big arrival.
There are also a few factors that make it more likely you’ll have a longer pregnancy:
- This is your first baby
- You’re an older mama
- You have a higher BMI
- You’ve had a long pregnancy before
- Your own mom or sister had a long pregnancy
At 42 weeks pregnant, your healthcare provider will be monitoring both you and the baby closely, to make sure everything is still progressing to plan.
Your baby at 42 weeks pregnant
Your baby is now the size of a watermelon (a slightly larger watermelon than 41 weeks!) – around 20 inches long and 8 pounds in weight, on average. They’re getting big enough to face their next adventure in the big, wide world.
Because of your longer pregnancy, your HP will carry out regular tests to make sure that your baby is still happy and healthy inside you. Your amniotic fluid levels can fall towards the end of pregnancy and make things less hospitable for your little guest, so that’s one thing your HP will be looking out for. They’ll also be checking to make sure baby’s heart rate, size, and positioning are all as they should be.
When you give birth after 42 weeks, there’s a possibility that your baby will show signs of being “post-mature”. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re wiser than all the other babies (though they may be more alert as newborns). Instead, you’ll see a couple of small differences to your baby’s appearance:
Dry skin: A baby born at 42 weeks or later has normally lost the creamy, protective vernix coating from their skin now, so it may look dry, red, and peeling. The old layer of skin will fall off naturally after a few days and reveal soft, new skin underneath.
No lanugo: Your baby will have shed the fine downy hair (lanugo) that covered their body from around the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy.
These are both physical reminders of the extended stay inside Hotel Mama, and aren’t a cause for concern.
Your body at 42 weeks pregnant
We totally feel your impatience! You’re definitely ready to carry your baby in your arms instead of in your belly now. It’s no fun that those pregnancy side effects you’ve had since week 40, or even earlier, seem to keep ramping up a notch.
You could be experiencing: pelvic pain, backache, foot cramps, peeing frequently, trouble sleeping, and more Braxton Hicks contractions. It’s possible that your breasts are leaking now too. You might start seeing the first signs of colostrum – a forerunner to breast milk that will be your baby’s food in the first few days after birth.
Labor signs to watch for
When you’re 42 weeks pregnant, labor could get started at any time, so make sure that hospital bag is ready to go and that you’ve got all the supplies you’ll need for postpartum. Then, when baby decides it’s time, you’ll be ready to go!
Here’s some early signs of labor to watch out for:
Bloody show: A discharge of mucus tinged slightly pink or brown with blood. This suggests that your cervix is widening (aka dilating) ready for labor. If you see a heavier flow of blood, it’s best to contact your HP, as there could be a problem with your placenta that needs attention.
Loose bowels: Diarrhea is nature’s slightly icky way of clearing out your body ready for labor – it’s all for a good cause!
Waters breaking: The classic sign of labor that makes it into all the movies. A trickle or burst of clear fluid indicates that the amniotic sac has split, ready for your baby to leave it.
Regular contractions: Your old friend, Braxton Hicks, will be replaced by the real thing. These contractions will be more regular and painful (sorry!) than the practice round.
Cervix widening: This isn’t something you’ll be able to tell easily yourself, but your HP will examine you to see if your cervix has begun widening and thinning in preparation for birth.
However, if you’re 42 weeks pregnant and have no signs of labor, your HP will probably want to try inducing you soon, to minimize any risks to you or the baby.
Inducing labor at 42 weeks
With an induced labor, your HP will use a few different medical techniques to get your contractions going and encourage your cervix to dilate, so you can give birth vaginally. The ACOG recommends that induction takes place during the 42nd week of pregnancy.
After week 42, you have a slightly increased risk of problems during a vaginal delivery, possibly leading to the need for a C-section (if your baby has grown a little too big, for example). The risk of your baby experiencing health problems also increases. So that’s why induction often takes place by the end of week 42.
On the other hand, if all your baby’s tests are coming back clear and they still seem happy and healthy, you may decide to wait just a little longer – to see if they’ll put in an appearance on their own. Ultimately, it’s about your personal feelings as a mama, informed by the best medical advice.
If you do choose induction, here are some of the techniques your HP may try to coax your baby out into the world:
Stripping the membranes: Your HP uses their fingers to sweep around the amniotic sac holding your baby and gently separate it from the walls of your uterus. This can cause contractions to begin in the next 48 hours.
Stimulating contractions: You are given the drug Pitocin (an artificial version of oxytocin, the hormone that causes contractions) through an IV line.
Ripening your cervix: Medication (often Prostaglandin) is inserted inside you to help soften your cervix.
Breaking your waters: Your HP will use a little tool to pierce the amniotic sac and cause your waters to break. This can also help contractions to get started.
Mama, we know this is a challenging time. We know you’ve got so many different thoughts and feelings swirling around in your head, and you’re dealing with all the physical symptoms of a late-stage pregnancy, too.
But you’re doing so well, and the end is definitely in sight! Soon you’ll have your little one snuggled safe in your arms.