If you're more than ready to pop that baby out, but he or she isn't ready to play ball, you may need to be induced.
That's when labour is started artificially, and it's called an induction. The most common reason for induction is when a pregnancy has continued past 40 weeks, but other reasons include poor foetal growth, foetal distress and a number of medical conditions including pre-eclampsia (toxaemia) and gestational diabetes.
In some cases, it may be safe to wait up to 14 days after the due date, but in most cases labour is induced sometime between 7-10 days. When a pregnancy continues after 40 weeks, there is a risk that the placenta will deteriorate and therefore not supply sufficient nutrients to the baby. If you do go over your due date, you can expect to have more frequent check-ups with your LMC, and possibly an ultrasound or CTG monitoring to ensure that baby is still growing well and is not distressed.
If you're past your due date and labour hasn't started, your LMC may perform a membrane sweep to try and start labour naturally. A membrane sweep is where the LMC uses a finger to 'sweep' the opening of the cervix, this can sometimes cause labour to start within a few hours.
If your labour is going to be induced, an appointment will be made for you at the hospital where you're giving birth. Inductions are always carried out in hospital, in case of complications.
If you're close to, or past, your due date, your LMC may rupture your membranes as a way of starting labour. This involves a small instrument that looks like a crochet needle being used to puncture the amniotic sac. In many cases, this is enough to start contractions. However, once your membranes have been ruptured, the chance of infection greatly increases so if labour hasn't started within 24 hours it's likely you'll be given drugs to induce labour.
The induction process usually begins with the insertion of prostaglandin gel into the cervix. Prostaglandin is a collection of hormones known to start labour. After the gel is inserted, you'll be free to move around while you wait for contractions to start.
Should the prostaglandin gel not work, the next step is to induce labour using drugs, usually syntocinon and oxytocin. These drugs are generall administered by drip, and youll have to stay at the hospital. It's likely that you'll also be attached to a CTG monitor to record baby's heartbeat in case of foetal distress, so you won't be free to pop down to the hospital cafe.
Women who have been induced using these drugs report shorter labours, with much more intense contractions, and less time in between contractions. Women who are induced are also more likely to require pain relief due to the rapid onset and intensity of contractions.
Induction is something which should be discussed with your LMC several weeks before your due date. You should discuss how you feel about the possible need for induction, and how long over your due date you should go before induction should be considered. This should be included in your birth plan.