If the usual pregnancy term of 37 to 42 weeks is exceeded, you are most likely experiencing post-term pregnancy. Read on to find out the risks it presents.
You probably cannot wait to meet your baby, and yet your little one seems to be a tad shy to make an appearance. This is known as a post-term pregnancy.
It is commonly accepted that pregnancy should last nine months. But in fact, the total gestation period is termed at 40 weeks from the first day of your last menstrual period. Because of this estimation, it is quite normal for the pregnancy to last for 37 to 42 weeks. When this term is exceeded, you are most likely experiencing a post-term pregnancy.
Complications may arise if the pregnancy passes its due date. Your little one may not be capable of getting any more nutrients because the placenta might not work as effectively as before.
Causes of a post-term pregnancy
While the exact cause has not been identified, post-term pregnancy seems to be linked to a deficiency in the placenta. A placenta will eventually reach the end of its lifespan, and chances are that the placenta will begin to lose its attributes towards the end of your pregnancy.
In a post-term pregnancy, the placenta is failing, so your baby will not receive a sufficient supply of oxygen and nutrients. This, in turn, results in low amniotic fluid. Post-term pregnancy is much less common than premature birth and, in rare cases, it can lead to stillbirth. At birth, a post-term infant may look like a small, old person for the first few days, with wrinkled and crumpled up loose skin.
Infants born post-term may also have:
- Peeling skin
- Overgrown hair and nails
- Visible creases and wrinkles
- Yellowish skin tone
- Minimal fetal movement before birth
- Be overly-lean
RELATED: Learn how to calculate your due date
Risks of post-term pregnancy
Placental insufficiency can pose great risk to the well-being of the foetus. As the placenta shrinks, the amount of oxygen that is passed to your baby is reduced considerably, so the foetus starts using up its own reserves to survive. It may lead to rapid weight loss and growth retardation in later life. This can cause the baby to become severely distressed, and in extreme cases, the lack of oxygen can lead to brain and organ damage.
This distress can cause the foetus to release bowels into the amniotic fluid and, as they gasp for breath, they might inhale their own waste. This can result in respiratory problems after birth. Post-term babies might also have low blood sugar levels due to the exhausted glucose stores they had to dig in to.
What can be done about post-term pregnancy?
Induced labour is recommended. But if the baby’s heart rate is low due to the lack of oxygen, your gynaecologist will schedule you for a Caesarean. The infant will be given a few blood tests to check for low blood sugar and he or she needs to be nursed around the hour for the first 48 hours to get the glucose levels back on track. Having a post-term pregnancy need not be fatal, as long as it is treated immediately.