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Post-term, or prolonged, pregnancy is defined as one that lasts beyond 42 weeks. A "normal" pregnancy typically lasts 38 to 40 weeks. There is evidence that risks to the baby increase in prolonged pregnancies.
The risks to babies who are delivered after 42 weeks of pregnancy include:
- Brain injuries
- Shoulder dystocia. This is where the babies shoulder is obstructed and cannot be delivered normally.
- Bone fracture
- Paralysis of the nerves
- Asphyxia. This means a lack of oxygen in the body, which can cause brain injury.
Mothers, just like babies, also have higher risks associated with post-term pregnancy. Not including the possible emotional trauma a mother might have to face with the unexpected loss of her child due to post-term pregnancy, some risks mothers face include:
- Postpartum hemorrhage
- Cervical rupture
- Large fetus, causing cephalopelvic disproportion, which means that the baby's body is too large to fit through the mother's pelvis, resulting in the need for a Cesarean delivery.
A post-term pregnancy most often results in the inducement of labor or a cesarean delivery. While there are risks associated with post-term pregnancies, the occurrence of pregnancies going beyond 40 weeks is rare. The advances in technology in this day and age have enabled doctors to have a better grasp of the baby's health and expected due date. Also, the proper induction of labor methods can lead to a normal, healthy delivery at the appropriate time. While the occurrence of a prolonged pregnancy is rare, it does happen, and it often has catastrophic consequences.