By Joanne Stone, Keith Eddleman, Mary Duenwald

Don’t worry — the end really is in sight. If you haven’t gone into labor on your own, your doctor will likely schedule you for either induction or cesarean section by 41-42 weeks. If you are older than 35, and especially older than 40, your doctor may want to deliver you sooner.

Because the risks to continuing the pregnancy really increase after 41–42 weeks, your baby should be delivered by that time. Your doctor makes sure your baby remains healthy during this time:

  • Your doctor monitors you with non-stress tests to check on fetal well-being. This is a non-invasive way to make sure the baby is tolerating the in-utero environment.

  • Your doctor checks the amount of amniotic fluid present to make sure it’s still adequate. The amniotic fluid volume usually tends to decrease after 36 weeks, so it is not uncommon for it to be low at this time. Low amniotic fluid volume is a common reason for labor induction during this period.

Although the baby continues to grow after 40 weeks, the rate of growth slows a little, and he may not put on the quarter-pound per week that he did in the few weeks before 40 weeks.