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Postterm Pregnancy

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.


Post-term pregnancy

means your pregnancy continues to 42 weeks or longer. A normal pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks. This is counted from the first day of the last period you had before you became pregnant. The cause of post-term pregnancy is not known. Your risk is higher if your mother had a post-term pregnancy with you. Your risk is higher in future pregnancies after you have had a post-term pregnancy.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your water broke or you feel warm water gushing or trickling from your vagina.
  • You do not feel your unborn baby move for 12 hours.
  • You feel cramping or constant pain in your abdomen.
  • You have heavy bleeding from your vagina.

Call your obstetrician if:

  • You have more than 5 contractions in 1 hour.
  • It takes longer than usual to feel 10 of your unborn baby's movements.
  • You do not feel your unborn baby move at least 10 times in 2 hours.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


If you and your baby are not having health problems, your provider may want to wait until labor starts naturally. He or she will check your baby often to make sure there are no problems. Tests may show that your baby is having problems or may grow too large for you to deliver safely. Your healthcare provider may want to induce (start) labor and deliver your baby. The following may be used to induce labor:

  • Medicine may be given to soften and ripen (thin) your cervix or to start contractions. Medicine to soften your cervix is placed in your vagina, near your cervix. Medicine to start contractions is given through an IV.
  • Sweeping the membranes is a procedure used to move the amniotic sac away from the uterus. This will make your body produce hormones that can help start labor. You may have some mild pain or spotting during this procedure. You may also have cramps.
  • Breaking your water means your healthcare provider makes a small hole in your amniotic sac. This will make the sac rupture and start labor.


If your provider did a procedure or gave you medicine to make labor start, you may need to wait at home for your water to break. The following can help you be more comfortable while you wait:

  • Rest as needed. Put your feet up if you have swelling in your ankles and feet. You may need to find a comfortable position that takes pressure off your back. Talk to your healthcare provider if you are having trouble getting comfortable.
  • Manage leg cramps. Raise your legs above the level of your heart to decrease swelling. During a leg cramp, stretch or massage the muscle that has the cramp. Heat may help decrease pain and muscle spasms. Apply heat on your muscle for 20 to 30 minutes every 2 hours or as directed.
  • Talk to your provider if you want to try home methods to make labor start. Examples include eating spicy food or having sex. Some methods may not be safe for you or your baby. Ask your healthcare provider before you try these methods.

Follow up with your obstetrician as directed:

Your provider will tell you how often to come in for tests and to check on you and the baby. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.