If your baby is only a couple of days late, there is no reason to worry. But if your pregnancy lasts longer than 42 weeks there is a higher risk of stillbirth, although most babies stay healthy.
Your midwife will probably talk to you about your options for bringing on labour at your 38 week antenatal visit, including a membrane sweep (also known as a cervical sweep). A membrane sweep may trigger natural labour, but there's no guarantee it will work.
What happens during a membrane sweep?
This is a bit like an internal examination and doesn’t take long. The midwife or obstetrician puts a finger into the cervix and makes a circular or sweeping movement with their fingers. The point of it is to separate the sac surrounding your baby from the cervix and trigger natural labour.
A membrane sweep can be uncomfortable and can cause some light bleeding, but it also makes it more likely that you will go into labour naturally.
You should be offered a membrane sweep at your 40 week and 41 week antenatal appointments during your first pregnancy or your 41 week appointment if you’ve had a baby before. If labour doesn’t start after this, you can ask for additional membrane sweeps.
You don’t have to have a membrane sweep if you don’t want one. There are other things you could try to bring on labour naturally, although none of these have been medically proven.
You can also have an induction. This means starting labour artificially.
This part of labour can sometimes last a long time. This page explains what the latent phase of labour is and how to get through it as comfortably as possible.
In the diary of a third pregnancy our diarist tries to capture the pain and magic of the birth of her son.
Hypnobirthing is a method of pain management that can be used during labour and birth. It involves using a mixture of visualisation, relaxation and deep breathing techniques.
You might like to consider giving birth at home for a more relaxed experience in familiar surroundings. Find out whether this is the right option for you.
Are you thinking about having a water birth? Find out about the advantages and disadvantages of giving birth in the water, what to wear and what the pain relief options are.
Cutting the cord immediately after the birth has been routine practice for 50-60 years but more recently research is showing that it is not good for the baby.
If your waters break naturally, you may feel a slow trickle or a sudden gush of fluid that you can’t stop. Your waters may break before you go to hospital but are more likely to break during labour.
Braxton Hicks contractions are the body’s way of preparing for labour, but if you have them it doesn’t mean your labour has started. Here, we explain more about Braxton Hicks.
If you’re feeling a bit anxious about giving birth, there are things you can do that may help. Here’s some helpful advice from mums who’ve been there.
The ideal position for your baby to be in for labour and birth is head down, their back towards the front of your stomach.
At the end of your pregnancy, you may have some signs that your baby will arrive very soon, even though you may not go into labour for a little while yet.
You can call your midwife or hospital straight away if you think you’re in labour. You will usually be assessed over the phone.
NHS Choices. You and your baby at 42 weeks pregnant. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/42-weeks-pregnant/ (Page last reviewed: 17/07/2018. Next review due: 17/07/2021)
NICE (2014). Intrapartum care for healthy women and babies. National Institute for health and care excellence https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg190Hide details
ℹLast reviewed on June 5th, 2019. Next review date June 5th, 2022.