What to do When You Go Past Your Due Date

Tips for inducing labour naturally
pregnant woman lying down
© Can Stock Photo / dolgachov

A very pregnant woman has a check-up. She is past her due date and her medical team wants to discuss ways of encouraging birth, but the mother-to-be is hesitant about medical interventions, specifically an induction.

This situation is quite common, as quite a few pregnancies go past their expected due dates. Approximately 2.9% of pregnancies go post-term. Since it is the objective of the medical team to reduce the risk of complications for both the fetus and mother,  the goal is to have the baby arrive before 42 weeks, which translates into a normal delivery window of anywhere between 37 weeks and 41+6 weeks of gestation.

As a naturopathic doula, my goal is for labour to occur spontaneously and for women to avoid medical inductions, as interventions come with risks: specifically, an increased use of forceps, vacuums, and c-sections. But don’t fret! There are safe and gentle induction tricks that can encourage the natural delivery process. (As always, please consult with your medical team before using any of these suggestions.)

How late is post-term?

Before we get there, it helps to better understand the concepts of term and post-term (overdue). The term of a pregnancy is divided into four sub-categories:

Early term 

37 weeks to 38 weeks + 6 weeks of gestation

Full term

39 0/7 weeks of gestation through 40 6/7 weeks of gestation

Late term

41 0/7 weeks of gestation through 41 6/7 weeks of gestation

Post term 

42 0/7 weeks of gestation and beyond

Review your due date

Did your original due date get bumped to a few days earlier in a late-stage ultrasound because your baby measured big? We know that early dating ultrasounds (those performed before eight weeks) determine the due date with great accuracy but beyond that, the accuracy declines. If you know your due date based on your cycles and/or conception dates, or you had an early dating ultrasound, I would encourage you to rely on that original date. Moving a due date to earlier increases the risk of being deemed overdue when you might not actually be so. You want to give your body the time it needs to go into labour on its own.  
Get moving

One of the best things you can do in the late stages of pregnancy is move! Try walking an hour daily. I know with swollen feet, tight hips, and the extra weight you’re carrying, it may make that feat seem very unappealing, but even breaking up that hour into 15-minute sessions will help!

As your due date gets closer, try deep squats (you can rest a block under your bum if that helps), pelvic rocking (standing in a wide legged stance and rocking your hips from side to side), and relaxing in child’s pose (sitting on your heels with toes pointed behind you while resting face-down toward the floor). All of these movements will apply pressure to the cervix and help engage your baby.

Boost those oxytocin levels!

The hormone oxytocin is responsible for getting labour going, and ensuring the rhythmic nature of contractions during labour. This is our “love” hormone. We produce this hormone in our brains and it’s excreted when we feel safe, loved, and happy. When you snuggle on the couch with your partner, or enjoy intimate moments together, your body is producing loads of oxytocin. Towards the end of pregnancy, when you want to get labour going, pump up those internal oxytocin levels! Try watching a funny movie, spending time with friends, relaxing in a warm bath, and having sex. The goal is to fill your cup with joy and indulge in all things positive. 

Give acupuncture a go!

Acupuncture treatments started by 37 weeks have been shown to help initiate the onset of labour, prepare the uterus and cervix, reduce contraction pain, shorten the average labour time, reduce recovery time, and significantly decrease the need for medical interventions.6 Acupuncture also reduces rising stress levels, and relaxes the nervous system, which helps women go into labour on their own.

Test out some homeopathics and herbals 

Please seek medical advice before using these remedies. The most commonly used herbs are blue cohosh (Caulophylum)* and black cohosh (Cimicifuga). They are not to be used in early pregnancy, but only after 37 weeks, as they stimulate uterine contractions.

Drink some tea!

Brewed as a tea, red raspberry leaf is one of the most widely used and safest pregnancy herbs. It contains fragrine, a compound that tones the uterus. Red raspberry leaf is also rich in minerals, making it a nourishing drink for both mama and baby. This herb prepares the muscles for labour and delivery and ensures labour contractions work effectively! This tea is commonly enjoyed in the third trimester and as the due date approaches the amount enjoyed usually can be increased.

Full Term Tisane 

This beverage is to be consumed in a full term pregnancy (past 37 weeks). It encourages mild contractions, calms the nervous system, and provides mama and baby with nourishing minerals. Enjoy.

  • 1 part red raspberry leaf

  • 1 part nettle

  • ½ part oatstraw

  • ½ part lemon balm

Steep in hot water for 8-10 minutes.

Get some R&R!

Sometimes after trying seemingly everything, you become frustrated, feeling like your baby will never come! But as with all things, it will happen when it happens. So try to relax, enjoy the sleep while you can get it, and know that in a very short time, life as you know it will change forever in the best way possible!