What? 42 weeks pregnant?
Doesn’t even bear thinking about, am I right?
It’s not going to happen to you … is it?
You are so excited and pumped for 40 weeks.
You’re even prepared to go a bit earlier because you have a feeling, or because it happened to your sister or best friend.
Then the magic day arrives and nothing happens. You get bigger and more uncomfortable by the day.
Suddenly, time that had been flying by has come to a screeching halt.
Every morning you wake up – still pregnant. You shed a few tears and then heave yourself through another day of not having a baby.
Been there. Got the t-shirt x 3. Yes, I’ve been 42 weeks pregnant three times. I am here for you.
Every pregnancy is different. And all three of mine were completely different, except for the fact it takes me exactly 42 weeks, or 295 days, to grow a baby.
Those final weeks! Look, I’m not going to lie to you, mamas, it’s hard.
Being that pregnant is physically and mentally hard work and it takes a lot of digging deep to get through.
I even wrote this ode to the final weeks, because I really and truly understand.
When I was hitting 42 weeks for the third time, I realized that, as well as helping my baby to grow, I had to take care of myself too.
So, for you, my overdue friends, here are my 15 self care tips for 42 weeks pregnant mamas.
#1: Plan to do something every day
It doesn’t have to be anything amazing. Maybe a warm bath, a massage, a binge session of your favorite series on Netflix, or cooking something really delicious for lunch.
What it is doesn’t actually matter, as long as it’s something you can look forward to.
Create a highlight every day with big or small things.
That way, it’s a little easier to get through another day when it feels like your baby is never going to arrive.
#2: Move it or lose it
I know, I really understand …. moving your 42 weeks pregnant body around at this stage doesn’t appeal.
I’m not talking about going for a 10km hike or attempting a marathon.
Do something gentle, like prenatal yoga, a gentle walk, or even a few laps at the swimming pool (it feels so good to be weightless).
You’re aiming to get some endorphins floating around your system. This improves your emotional wellbeing and reduces stress levels. And it can make room for oxytocin to get going and labor to start.
#3: Rest and rest … then rest some more
Yes, I know. I just told you to get moving and now I’m saying you should rest.
Resting doesn’t just mean sleeping or sitting down for five minutes with your feet up. It takes a little more effort to relax your mind and allow yourself to be in the moment, without judging it or wishing things were different.
Maybe you let go emotionally in a warm bath, or during an acupuncture session, or even sitting quietly listening to music. Some women find meditation or mindfulness apps helpful. Rest – for both body and mind – means you’ll have plenty of energy for labor when it begins.
Find what works for you and practise sinking into acceptance of the here and now.
#4: Create a ritual
Waking up every morning thinking, ‘No baby AGAIN’, will only make you irritable and emotional. Thinking negative thoughts and stressing out about still being pregnant might even interfere with labor starting.
A ritual that helps to keep you calm and Zen is a good way to bring you back into a good headspace.
For me, it was making a cup of tea first thing in the morning and sitting quietly enjoying the warmth and flavor. It signaled to my emotional brain, ‘Today isn’t the day and that’s ok’.
#5: Get creative
You don’t have to start painting watercolors or go to a pottery class (although there’s nothing to stop you doing that). Having a creative project or outlet can be really distracting. Try jigsaw puzzles. Even looking online for matching yarn colors can use up hours of time you’d otherwise spend thinking about not having a baby.
You might not get to finish your project (I’m looking at you, crocheted baby blanket) but if you’re not 42 weeks pregnant anymore, you won’t mind!
#6: Speak up
This might not seem like self care but honestly, it’s the number one thing you can do to make yourself feel good. Constantly hearing ‘Are you still pregnant?’ is really hard and messes with your head.
No one wants to meet your baby more than you, and being constantly reminded you’re still pregnant can make you feel down.
It’s ok to say to family and friends, ‘Please stop asking me. I’ll let you know when I’ve had the baby’.
If this is a bit hard for you, it’s ok to post or text something similar to reply to constant enquiries. I even recorded a new greeting for my voicemail.
#7: Do things you’ll miss when baby arrives
Mmmm … I’m not talking about skydiving or horseback riding. Take it down a notch and think about what you’ll miss doing when you’re caring for a newborn. Going to see a new film, perhaps, or eating out at your favorite restaurant with your partner or friends?
If you have other children, make memories and enjoy this quality time with just them. Your family is about to evolve and your children will cherish these moments as much as you will.
But don’t fake it either. If you’re too tired to go out, you don’t have to. Invite some friends over for dinner or a games night (but maybe not Twister). Stay in with your partner and make the most of your time together before your baby arrives. Invite your older children to a tea party in the kitchen.
#8: Laugh … cry … both!
Memorably, my midwife listened to me having a big cry on the phone about still being pregnant and then suggested I watch a comedy.
Getting the emotions out and having a big cry can actually feel really good. Laughing releases tension too, and it promotes the love hormone oxytocin. And that’s exactly what you want when hoping to go into labor.
Bonus tip: sex is a good stress reliever and oxytocin trigger. If you can actually make it work, that is!
#9: Embrace this time
You’re potentially the most pregnant you’ll ever be in your life. You have achieved something amazing – you’ve grown your baby for the perfect amount of time.
These transition moments are hard to appreciate when you’re living through them. It’s not until later, when you look back and see this time clearly, and know this was the moment before life changed! Soak in the little moments of peace and connection with your baby, still safely snug in his nest.
And you probably won’t believe me now, but you will miss being pregnant (maybe not that pregnant though).
#10: Get cooking while you’re still baking
When I was waiting for my third baby to put in her appearance, I switched to online grocery delivery and made plenty of yummy nourishing meals to stack in the freezer.
I knew how hard it was to get meals on the table with a newborn; plus I had two other children to care for.
I also planned to have a postnatal month, to aid my recovery and focus on bonding with my baby and family. Having nutrient dense meals ready in the freezer was comforting and allowed me to stop worrying about coping after birth.
#11: Nourish your body and baby
It’s so tempting to reach for the chocolate or ice cream or whatever your comfort food is when you’re eating your feelings.
The occasional treat is absolutely ok but it’s important to remember that while you’ve basically done all the ‘growing the baby work’, what you put into your body now is about preparing it for birth.
You want to have enough energy for when labor begins and to carry you through birth and into the postnatal period. So focus on healthy protein and nutrient dense foods as much as possible. This will keep your blood sugar levels in a healthy range and avoid any interference from your doctor about having an induction.
#12: Trust in the process
Easy to say, harder to do. But this is the time to dig deep and remember your amazing body is undertaking a normal, physiological process simultaneously with another amazing body.
You and your baby are working together towards birth. This means more than just feeling ready to give birth. Your body has an inner wisdom that waits for the signal from your baby that he or she is ready for labor to begin.
Sarah Smith, midwife, says, “It doesn’t matter how many curries or pineapples you eat, if you, or your baby, aren’t ready, then you can’t will yourself into labor”.
You can fight against things or you can accept the fact your baby is taking this perfect amount of time to prepare for life outside the womb.
Dawn Reid, midwife, says, “42 weeks is just a guess! At the end of the day you could be 41 weeks or 43 weeks. If your baby is happy and you are happy there is no reason to think that this is not within the realms of normal. Some women will birth later than 42 weeks and this is okay!”
If everything is well, be at peace with these last moments with you and your baby in this perfect union.
Frustration with your body for ‘not working’ sets you up mentally for feeling like you’re failing. You aren’t. You’re actually doing something incredible!
#14: Find support
You might be surprised at how many women out there have been in the same situation as you. Women who go ‘overdue’ endure much more stress and pressure than those who don’t go beyond their due date. Find yourself a tribe of supportive mamas and lean in to their wisdom and experience.
Dawn Reid, midwife says, “Speak with other mamas. Most are happy to share their experiences of going beyond 42 weeks. Be kind to yourself, go with your instincts, know what is right for you and your baby. Don’t be bullied or coerced into intervention that is not evidence-based. Know your rights of autonomy over your body and your baby”.
It’s vital to have support, quality information and evidence that help you navigate your choices about what to do after reaching this milestone. You might be facing changes to your birth location (especially if you planned a home birth or birth center) and this can be incredibly challenging. A birth doula or experienced mama can help you work through these concerns.
Pregnancy massage is a beautiful nourishing treat but it helps in more ways than you realize.
Encouraging your body to release tension can signal to your mind that all is well and safe. The sensation of massage helps to release all the feel good hormones, endorphins and oxytocin. Any tight muscles holding baby out of a good position for birth can be adjusted, bringing you both in alignment for labor to start.
And really, who needs an excuse for a massage?