When is a Birth Considered “Delayed”?


When you near the end of your pregnancy, you likely feel a mixture of anticipation about welcoming a new baby and nervousness about labor and delivery. No matter what, however, you are probably ready for your pregnancy to end. If you haven’t gone into labor once your due date arrives, you might feel concerned about your body and your baby. Here is some information about overdue babies and what delayed births mean from the lawyers at Raynes & Lawn.

What Is a Delayed Birth?

To understand delayed birth, it is helpful to understand the following definitions provided by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG):

  • Early term birth – 37 – 38 weeks
  • Full-term birth – 39 – 40 weeks
  • Late-term birth – 41 – 42 weeks
  • Post-term birth – 42 weeks +

Infants born before 37 weeks gestation are premature, and those who are born after 42 weeks are considered post-mature or delayed births. Only 10% of births are post-mature or delayed.

How Due Dates Are Calculated

Determining the date of conception is frequently difficult. Because of this, doctors commonly calculate your due date based on your fetus’s gestational age. A fetus’s gestational age is calculated by using the first day of your last period. The average length of a pregnancy is 280 days from the first day of your last pregnancy, which will be your estimated due date. The due date window includes the weeks surrounding your estimated delivery date, and you are likely to give birth at any time during that window.

If you don’t know when your last period occurred, have irregular menstrual cycles, or got pregnant while you were taking oral contraceptives, your doctor might order an ultrasound to determine your fetus’s gestational age. With an ultrasound, your doctor can measure your fetus’s crown to rump length (CRL) to determine its gestational age.

The CRL can provide the most accurate estimate of a fetus’s age during the first trimester since fetuses grow at roughly the same rate during that period. During the second or third trimesters, however, fetuses grow at different rates so the ability to provide an accurate estimate of your due date based on the fetus’s gestational age will diminish during those trimesters.

How Due Dates Are Calculated

Causes of Going Beyond Your Due Date

Several factors might increase your risk of having a delayed birth, including the following:

  • First pregnancy
  • Personal or family history of delayed birth pregnancies
  • Obesity
  • Male fetus
  • Incorrect calculation of your due date

Risks of Overdue Birth

When labor and delivery are late-term or post-term, there are several risks of health problems. Your fetus might continue to grow and be significantly larger than average when you give birth, which could increase the risk of shoulder dystocia or a cesarean section (C-section). Your baby might also have postmaturity syndrome, which occurs when a fetus doesn’t gain weight after its due date and has long nails and dry or loose skin at birth. Postmaturity syndrome also causes low levels of amniotic fluid, which can cause fetal heart rate problems and umbilical cord compression during contractions. This can cause oxygen deprivation and the buildup of meconium, which can result in severe respiratory problems or stillbirth.

Other complications of a delayed birth include the following:

  • Severe vaginal tearing
  • Postpartum hemorrhaging
  • Infection

What Happens if Your Baby is Overdue?

If your baby is overdue, you will likely see your doctor more frequently than before. Your doctor will check your baby’s size, heart rate, position, and movement. Medical tests and additional monitoring might be ordered to ensure your baby is healthy. You will be asked to perform kick counts and record the movements of your baby.

What Happens if Your Baby is Overdue?

Tests might be performed one to two times per week and include the following:

  • Nonstress test to measure your baby’s heart rate over around 20 minutes
  • Contraction stress test to check your baby’s heart rate when your uterus contracts
  • Biophysical profile to check your baby’s muscle tone, movement, and heart rate and your amniotic fluid levels
  • Cervical exam to check the condition of your cervix and whether it is dilated

Your doctor might recommend that labor is induced based on the results of these tests if doing so is in the best interests of your baby and you. Your doctor will consider your age, health history, your pregnancy history, and your birthing wishes when recommending induction. If your doctor recommends induction, there are some things you can do to try to encourage labor.

Some induction methods might include the following:

  • Sex
  • Exercise
  • Acupuncture
  • Castor oil
  • Nipple stimulation
  • Breaking your water
  • Labor-inducing medicine

You should talk to your doctor about the labor induction methods that might make the most sense.

Talk to Our Philadelphia Birth Injury Attorneys

If your baby’s birth was delayed, resulting in significant vaginal tearing or injuries to your baby, you should speak to the Philadelphia birth injury attorneys at Raynes & Lawn. In some cases, an overdue birth might cause injuries when a doctor fails to correctly calculate the due date or appropriately monitor the baby. Call us today to schedule a free consultation at 1-800-535-1797.


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