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First of all, don't worry. About half of newborns are late arrivals. And most of the time, an overdue baby isn't late at all – the due date was just off because it's hard to calculate precisely. Only about 7 percent of babies are truly overdue.
"The due date is a rough estimate, since every person has a different menstrual cycle and ovulates at a slightly different time in the month," says Catherine Hansen, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston.
If you're past your due date and still pregnant, try not to worry. "Most of the time, a woman's body knows when to go into labor," says Hansen.
After 42 weeks, though, the once-ideal environment in your uterus may become less hospitable. The placenta may become less equipped to supply nutrients and oxygen, and your body's production of amniotic fluid may drop off.
"Pregnancies past 42 weeks have some increased risks, including the chance of a c-section; the possibility of needing a vacuum or forceps to assist delivery; your baby pooping into the amniotic fluid and then 'breathing' it in, which causes difficulty after birth; and, very rarely, stillbirth," says Hansen.
To prevent this, many obstetricians induce labor when it's certain that a pregnancy is past 41 weeks and the cervix is ready – or sooner if there are complications. Other care providers may instead choose to perform tests once or twice a week until labor begins to find out whether your baby is still thriving in your uterus.
Should you go past your due date, you may want to discuss both of these options with your care provider.