42 Weeks Pregnant
Welcome to a “post-term” pregnancy. If you’re reading this, you’re one of the rare moms-to-be who makes it to 42 weeks pregnant. Don’t let all those people asking you where baby is and why you haven’t been induced make you feel like something’s wrong. Every mom-to-be and baby is different, and your due date is just an estimate—and sometimes due dates are miscalculated too! So there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making it to week 42 of pregnancy. Just keep following your doctors orders and paying close attention to fetal movement. If you notice a decrease in the way baby moves, call your heathcare provider immediately. And while you might feel like you’re going a little crazy with anxiety, remember: 98 percent of babies emerge by the end of week 42 (if your pregnancy dating is accurate!). So you’ll get to meet baby really soon—we promise!
At 42 weeks pregnant, baby is the size of a watermelon—a bigger watermelon than last week. The average 42-week fetus measures 20.3 inches and weighs 8.1 pounds. Yup, baby is still growing! But don’t worry, they’re unlikely to be too big to deliver vaginally.
Forty-two weeks pregnant is 10 months and about two weeks. Yes, it happens!
What happens at 42 weeks of pregnancy? Well, your 42 weeks pregnant symptoms are probably the same ones you’ve been feeling the past few weeks—leg cramps, trouble sleeping, backaches, pelvic pressure, hemorrhoids, frequent urination and contractions—just maybe more intense.
You might be stressed at 42 weeks pregnant. No one said pregnancy after 40 weeks was easy! Try to be patient as you let baby decide when to make their debut.
Keep doing kick counts and letting your OB know if you notice any changes in kick frequency. Also tell your doctor right away if you have any troubling 42 weeks pregnant symptoms, such as strange discharge, bleeding or abdominal pain.
Believe it or not (and it’s probably hard for you to believe this right now), it’s considered within normal range to have a pregnancy last 42 weeks. However, it’s also pretty rare—less than 1 percent of babies in the United States are born at 42 weeks or later. You and baby are on an amazing journey together, and you’re at the finish line!
At 42 weeks pregnant, the signs of labor—the ones you’ve been waiting for!—may begin. Look out for:
- Mucus plug and/or bloody show. The thick mucus discharge—sometimes tinged with blood—is a sign the cervix is getting itself ready for delivery. It’s often a sign that labor will start soon, though just how soon, we can’t predict!
- Water breaking. If you’re leaking amniotic fluid or if your water breaks in one huge gush, call your doctor. Labor will probably begin within hours.
- Regular contractions. Hallelujah! This sign you’re in labor is the one you’ve probably been anticipating most. These guys are more intense than any Braxton Hicks contractions you may have been having, and most importantly, they don’t go away. True labor contractions happen over and over, at shorter intervals and at higher intensity (ouch!), and don’t let up until baby is born. (Yay!)
Wondering how to induce labor at 42 weeks pregnant? You probably have been trying natural methods such as walking, sex and acupuncture. But don’t resort to drinking castor oil (you’ll probably just make yourself sick), taking herbal supplements (they could be dangerous to you and baby) or stimulating your nipples (the resulting contractions could be too strong and dangerous for baby).
At 42 weeks pregnant, risks are higher for complications such as placental problems, low amniotic fluid and a pinched umbilical cord. And if baby gets too big, you may have to deliver by c-section. Because of those increased risks, your doctor may recommend a medical labor induction at 42 weeks if tests show it isn’t safe for baby to stay in utero much longer. Ways your doctor can induce labor:
- Stripping the membranes. At 42 weeks pregnant, this technique might be the thing that tips you over the edge into labor. Your doctor uses a finger to swipe around the amniotic sac. The hormones released often cause contractions within 48 hours.
- Breaking your water. Your doctor breaks the amniotic sac with an instrument that looks like a plastic croshet hook. This can cause contractions in just hours.
- Ripening your cervix. A medication called prostaglandin is inserted vaginally overnight or taken orally in order to dilate the cervix.
- Stimulating contractions. You’ll be hooked up to an IV with a synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin. This medication can get contractions started.
Rest assured that as long as baby is being watched with an eagle eye, they’re doing just fine in there. And they may be comfy inside your uterus, but they can’t stay there forever!
Due to the 42 weeks pregnant risks, your OB will want to monitor baby extra closely. A 42 weeks pregnant ultrasound, a non-stress test and a biophysical profile will be given to make sure baby is still moving well, has plenty of amniotic fluid, is breathing well and has a healthy heart rate. Because your 42-week baby has probably shed the vernix caseosa (that filmy stuff that covered their skin), the skin is probably getting a little dry at this point.
It’s hard to know for sure! In 1945, a Los Angeles woman gave birth after reportedly being pregnant for 375 days (for comparison, the typical pregnancy lasts 280 days). In 2016, a woman in China claimed she was 17 months pregnant, but she didn’t have medical records to back her up and doctors expressed a sizable dose of skepticism. In any case, we’re pretty sure your pregnancy won’t be breaking any records!
Relax as much as you can
If you’re worrying about how long things are taking and suffering from those 42 weeks pregnant symptoms, it’s easy to get stressed out. Try calming your mind with prenatal yoga, meditation or even a soothing scalp massage from your partner. You can also relax by taking some deep, slow breaths—and that can help prepare you for labor!
Set up online deliveries for supplies
If you haven’t done so already, set up regular deliveries of diapers, wipes and other essentials on your favorite shopping sites. No more last-minute or late-night runs to the store!
Double check your hospital bag
You probably packed this several weeks ago, so you may want to give it a quick once-over and make sure you have everything you need.
Want to nap in the middle of the day? How about ordering a new lipstick in a pretty pink or bold red color? Maybe you just want to indulge in a scoop of ice cream? Whatever it is, go for it—at 42 weeks pregnant, you deserve to pamper yourself!
Reminders for the week:
- Take more long walks
- Discuss 42 weeks pregnant risks with your OB
- Try to relax!
Medical content was reviewed November 2020 by Sherry A. Ross, MD, an ob-gyn and women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, and author of she-ology and she-ology, the she-quel: let’s continue the conversation.