Everyone’s placenta has a “use-by date” when after it has served its purpose it will stop working. Hopefully this happens after the baby is out.

The placenta’s life span will vary from woman to woman and pregnancy to pregnancy.

One of the major roles of antenatal care is to ensure that the placenta is still working well and the baby is still growing well throughout the pregnancy. The rate of stillbirths dramatically increases after 42 weeks and it is usually recommended that  babies are delivered between 10 days and 2 weeks overdue if they haven’t already arrived.

The role of the midwife or obstetrician is to look for other signs that the placenta may not be working as well as it should prior to this. Ultrasounds and CTGs (fetal heart rate monitoring) can be used to give more information. If there is concern about how well the placenta is working, an earlier delivery may be indicated.

The decision about how many days overdue you go will be made by you and your obstetrician, and will be dependent on your individual circumstances and the health of you and your baby.

This post was written by Dr Fiona Cowell