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Pregnancy week 40+

Beyond 40 weeks pregnant, your baby will be considered ‘post term’. There are ways to encourage labour but after a ‘membrane sweep’ you may need a medical induction.

Week-by-week stages of pregnancy: week 41 and beyond

You are now over 40 weeks pregnant. Your baby will be post-term but as only 5% of babies arrive on your due date, you are in company with many other mums-to-be. At 41 and 42 weeks, you are considered to be ‘overdue’ and this is particularly common with first babies. 

If you’re feeling fed up and uncomfortable, and are desperate to meet your baby, or if you want to avoid a medical induction, it can be tempting to try to kick start labour. There are many different ways that have been suggested such as having sex, or arousal, and nipple stimulation, drinking castor oil, or eating curry and going for a walk. However, it is worth noting that the effectiveness of these is not proven. 

If you get into pregnancy week 41 and week 42 and still haven’t started labour you will be offered an induction. To start your midwife may offer to ‘sweep’ your membranes.

This involves her inserting a finger gently into your cervix and running it between the top of the cervix and the bag of waters. This has been shown to increase the likelihood of labour starting in the next few days. If this doesn’t trigger labour you may be offered a medical induction to start labour artificially. 

This is normally arranged in advance so you can go to hospital or birthing centre with everything you need for the birth and you and your partner can be prepared.

Most babies will be born 14 days overdue, or the end of week 42, so the arrival your little bundle of joy is not too far away – congratulations!

Further help and information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.

Join in with NCT on Facebook and Twitter - it's a great way to make new friends and stay in touch with old ones. Or joint our community for new parents on Google+ where you can connect with other parents online who are experiencing similar things.