What exactly does a due date mean? 280 days from the last menstrual period (or really 266 days after conception), your "due" date is actually the midpoint of the four-week period in which your baby is most likely to be born. About 5% of women deliver on the due date, but almost 40% are still pregnant the next morning. Focusing on a due month rather than a due date can help you prepare for the possibility of going overdue.
As time passes, the placenta ages. If the placenta gets too old, it may provide less nutrition and oxygen for the baby. Most doctors and midwives watch the baby extra closely after the due date. This surveillance might include asking you to keep track of the baby's movements, observing the baby on the fetal monitor (called a non-stress test) and/or performing ultrasound. If the baby starts to show a problem, your practitioner will probably recommend induction of labor, since at that point you will be better able to take care of the baby outside rather than inside the womb.
By one to two weeks past the due date, most babies are better off being delivered, even if all the assessments are reassuring. As time passes further, the chances of needing a cesarean during labor go up, due to the baby not tolerating the stress of the contractions. Most practitioners recommend inducing labor if you haven't delivered by 41 to 42 completed weeks.
Keeping patient may be difficult as you see your due date pass. It is hard to believe that this baby really is going to come. Try to stay calm-and when you get tired of repeating yourself, let your answering machine tell everyone who calls "no, the baby isn't here yet!" In a few more days you will have your little one in your arms.