Did You Know: a healthy full-term pregnancy is measured between 37 – 42 weeks?

Most pregnancies go to full term, which means that a woman will go into spontaneous labour some time between the 37 and 42 week mark. Our campaign is called 42 weeks to reflect that the vast majority of babies will arrive when they are ready – not on an estimated due date (EDD) 42 weeks gestation is regarded as still being normal and only when women go beyond that are they overdue.

Here are some terms about pregnancy dates:

Term Pregnancy: 37 – 42 weeks
Postdates Pregnancy: A pregnancy any time after the estimated due date (EDD)
Prolonged Pregnancy: 42+ weeks of pregnancy

Most of the time, labour will begin on its own by the time you are 42 weeks pregnant. Women are offered to have their labour artificially started (induced) once they go over 42 weeks, as the evidence has shown that after 42 weeks there can be a slight increased risk to your baby.

Induction may be suggested before 42 weeks if there is a medical reason for you or your baby or for non medical reasons. These reasons may include: by request from you, on suggestion of your health care provider when there is no medical reason, or due to hospital policy.

Induction is a big decision that can affect you and your baby. It is a decision only you can make. Its important to weigh the risks and benefits in order to make the best decision for you and your baby in your circumstances.

Tools to help you make a decison.

Asking simple questions can help you make a decision.

Is my baby OK?
Am I OK?
What other suggestions do you have?

Another helpful tool is to “use your brain”.

B – what are the Benefits involved?
R – what are the Risks involved?
A– what are the Alternatives?
I – what does my Intuition tell me?
N – what would happen if we do Nothing?

Using the Evidence to help you make a decision.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK recommends that induction of labour has a large impact on the health of women and their babies, and so needs to be clearly clinically justified. If you are considering an induction of labour or have been offered an induction of labour without medical necessity, it is worth looking at the risks.

Induction of Labour:

* higher rates of Caesarean Section
* increased risk of your baby being admitted to NICU (neonatal intensive care unit)
* increased risk of forceps or vacuum (assisted delivery)
* contractions may be stronger than a spontaneous labour
* your labour is no longer considered ‘low risk’ – less choices in where and how you birth, restricted birth positions, continuous monitoring CTG, time limits for which to labour in.

If induction has ben offered to you for post-dates or prolonged pregnancy, and you decline, you should be offered increased monitoring to check your baby’s health.

You may be offered a membrane sweep to induce labour. A sweep is a vaginal exam in which a health care professional will sweep their finger between the cervix and bag of waters surrounding your baby. Sweeps may or may not induce labour. Evidence shows us that sweeps are more likely to work if your cervix is favourable for labour already. Sweeps can bring on a bloody show, irregular contractions, and can accidently break your waters.

Helpful Resources:

What is the Evidence for Induction or C-Section for Big Baby? 

Study Finds Adverse Effects of Pitocin in Newborns 

NICE Guidelines for Induction of labour

Membrane sweeping for induction of labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

“Frequency of membrane sweeping does not influence the likelihood of remaining undelivered at 41 weeks of pregnancy”

Source: International Journal of Women’s Health

Royal College of Midwives: How to Perform a Stretch and Sweep

For more information or support services contact AIMS Ireland at: support@aimsireland.com

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