May 15, 2005 Table of Contents

Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education Web site.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Post-term Pregnancy: What You Should Know

Am Fam Physician. 2005 May 15;71(10):1942.

See related article on post-term pregnancy.

What is a post-term pregnancy?

A pregnancy is called post-term when the baby is two weeks past its due date. One out of every 10 to 20 pregnancies is post-term.

What causes a post-term pregnancy?

No one knows what causes some pregnancies to be post-term. It does not seem to be caused by anything a woman does during her pregnancy. A post-term pregnancy does not mean there is anything wrong with the baby.

Can a post-term pregnancy cause problems for me or my baby?

Every pregnancy has some risks for the baby and mother. Women with a post-term pregnancy have a higher risk of problems than women who deliver their babies closer to their due date. But the risk is still low.

Some babies who are born post-term have pneumonia and breathing problems. Some women have problems during delivery because their babies have grown very big. Sometimes women with post-term pregnancies need to have an operation to deliver their babies. This is called a cesarean section (say: suh-SARE-ee-un), or C-section, for short.

What should I do if I haven't had my baby by my due date?

There is no answer that is right for everyone. Some women and their doctors decide to induce labor about one week after the due date. This is done by taking medicine that makes labor start. Some women and their doctors decide to wait until labor starts on its own. But if you haven't had your baby by about three weeks after your due date, your doctor probably will want labor to be induced. Women who have an induction are less likely to need a C-section than women who wait for labor to start on its own.

Will I need any special tests?

If labor is induced, you probably will not need any special tests. If you wait to go into labor, your doctor might want you to have some tests. One of these is called a nonstress test. Your doctor will use a machine to check your baby's heart rate. You also might need to have an ultrasound test. This lets your doctor see the baby and check how much fluid is in your womb. After doing these tests, your doctor might suggest that you have an induction.


This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.

Copyright © 2005 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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