41 weeks pregnant: Your guide to this week of your third trimester

    Updated 25 September 2023 |
    Published 24 February 2019
    Fact Checked
    Medically reviewed by Dr. Charlsie Celestine, Obstetrician and gynecologist, New Jersey, US
    Written by Alice Broster
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    From learning about induction to preparing for your baby, here’s the lowdown on being 40 weeks pregnant.

    At 41 weeks pregnant, your due date may have come and gone, and you’re officially considered late term. You may have had your suspicions as to whether your baby would have been born “on time” or a little later. It can be a fun guessing game at your baby shower to predict when your baby will make their appearance, but passing this milestone can feel less like a game at this point and more frustrating. 

    While your doctor will have told you your due date as a general guide, many pregnancies enter week 41, and only around 5% of babies are born on their given due date. Dr. Allison K. Rodgers, reproductive endocrinologist, obstetrician, and gynecologist at Fertility Centers of Illinois, US, suggests looking at the last days and weeks of pregnancy as more of a due month rather than a specific date. 

    You’ll likely be in touch with your health care provider at 41 weeks pregnant to discuss your best next move. So between reading up on labor and delivery to learn about induction, here’s the lowdown on being 41 weeks pregnant. 

    Your baby at 41 weeks pregnant 

    Baby is almost ready to be born

    At 41 weeks pregnant, your baby is ready to be born. Throughout the latter weeks of your third trimester, they’ve been gaining weight to prepare them for life in the outside world, but by 41 weeks, this rapid growth period has ended

    You might be curious as to whether there are any other changes that will happen with your baby this late into pregnancy. Your baby’s crucial organs and systems will have developed at this point and will continue to mature once they’re born

    While their skin is no longer translucent, many babies will have lost the creamy protective layer on their skin called the vernix caseosa, and the small downy hairs that kept them warm and acted as another protective layer (called the lanugo) may also have fallen out. This can mean that some babies who are born at 41 weeks can have red, dryer skin as they aren’t protected from the amniotic fluid anymore. Don’t be alarmed by this. Your baby doesn’t need to start using cocoa butter. This red layer of skin will peel in the first few days after they’re born, with a softer layer underneath. 

    How big is a baby at 41 weeks? 

    Length (crown to heel): 52 cm or 20.5 in 

    Weight: 3.8 kg or 8.3 lb 

    Size: Equivalent to a watermelon

    All measurements are approximate and vary within the normal range.

    Your body at 41 weeks pregnant 

    Monitor changes in your body for signs of labor

    Depending on where you live and who your provider is, you may have been having checkups with your health care professional as frequently as once a week or even twice weekly. As you approach and pass your due date, your doctor will likely monitor your baby’s position in your uterus and may check you for any signs of labor. Knowing these signs can help you to monitor any changes to your body at home. They can include: 

    • Feeling your baby has dropped lower in your uterus: Your baby may drop down as you get closer to labor. 
    • Increased vaginal discharge: This could indicate that your mucus plug is coming out.
    • Your water breaking: For some people, this can feel like a trickle, for others, a splash. Your water breaking describes when the sack that your baby has been growing in (which is filled with amniotic fluid) breaks. This might feel like you’ve peed, but rest assured that it’s totally typical. If you think your water has broken, then call your health care provider.
    • Periodic tightening around your bump that gets progressively closer together and stronger. These could be contractions. 
    • Your cervix starts to dilate (Your doctor will have to check this.) 

    If you experience any of the above, then you should reach out to your doctor immediately. They may want to call you in to examine you and confirm that you’ve gone into labor. 

    You might experience contractions without labor 

    You may have experienced Braxton Hicks contractions or false labor contractions throughout your pregnancy and wondered if they can happen this close to delivery. The short answer is yes. You might experience Braxton Hicks contractions until you give birth. They’re your body’s way of preparing for labor. 

    So as you’re on high alert for real signs of labor, it can be handy to know how to differentiate Braxton Hicks contractions from the real thing. Typically, Braxton Hicks contractions are felt at the front of your bump, can be painless, and come and go at irregular intervals. They might feel like contractions without labor. Real labor contractions can feel like intermittent tightening and relaxing of your uterus muscles and bump. These sensations get closer together and feel stronger. Real contractions can last for around 60 and 90 seconds, and once they’re every five minutes, you should call your health care provider. 

    Your questions answered 

    How far overdue can you go?

    As no two pregnancies are the same, there’s no concrete advice on how far overdue you can go, but many health care providers don’t suggest carrying beyond 41 to 42 weeks. If you’ve had a straightforward, healthy pregnancy, then your doctor may recommend an induction between weeks 41 and 42. Alongside induction, your doctor may recommend some tests to monitor your health and the health of your baby at this point in pregnancy. They can include: 

    • Electronic fetal monitoring: A doctor will wrap two bands around your bump with sensors on them. They will monitor your baby’s heart rate and any contractions you may be having. 
    • The nonstress test: This is another test to check your baby’s heart rate. It usually lasts around 20 minutes and can be used to establish if other monitoring may be helpful. 
    • A biophysical profile: This is an ultrasound scan and test to monitor your baby’s heart rate. It looks at your amniotic fluid and your baby’s movement and breathing.  
    • A contraction stress test: This test is to examine how your baby’s heart rate may change during contractions. To bring on very mild contractions, your health care provider may inject a small amount of oxytocin into your arm. 

    It isn’t uncommon to give birth in the days after your due date. Statistics collected on births in the United States in 2017 found that 6.25% of births happened in week 41, and 0.33% of babies were born in week 42. If you’re wondering what is best for you, then take guidance from your health care provider. 

    Why is my cervix not dilating at 41 weeks? 

    You may have felt your baby drop lower into your uterus, engaging for birth, and started to feel initial labor pains. This would suggest delivery isn’t far away, right? But if you’ve been to see your doctor and they’ve told you your cervix isn’t dilated yet, then it can be really confusing and frustrating. However, your cervix may not dilate at all until you’re close to active labor. Your body will continue preparing for delivery, and that may just mark the end of the process.

    What causes a baby to be overdue?

    It can be hard to say why some people go into labor naturally when they’re full term while others carry to 41 weeks pregnant. You may be more likely to be overdue if

    • You’ve been overdue before. 
    • You’re overweight. 
    • This is the first time you’re having a baby. 
    • Your due date was calculated incorrectly. This might have happened if you weren’t sure when your last period was due or if your cycles were irregular. If your due date wasn’t calculated correctly, then you may think you’re one or two weeks more pregnant than you are. 

    Should I be induced at 41 weeks or wait?

    At 41 weeks pregnant, your doctor will have likely talked to you about the option of being induced. This is when your health care provider helps to get labor going if it doesn’t seem to be starting naturally. Around 24.5% of births in the United States in 2016 were inductions, so it’s fairly common. You can keep reading to learn more about the process of induction. 

    Is it dangerous to go past 41 weeks?

    You may have already known that your due date is just a rough guide, but entering week 41 of pregnancy can be both exciting and daunting. You may wonder why labor hasn’t started yet and if it’s dangerous to carry beyond 41 weeks. It’s crucial to lean on your health care provider for support at this time and remember that while there are some health risks associated with late-term and post-term pregnancy, these problems only occur in a very small number of cases. Many people who deliver in the week or two after their due date don’t experience any complications at all. 

    Some risks associated with late-term pregnancies include: 

    At 41 weeks pregnant, your doctor will be monitoring both your health and your baby’s, and they may recommend you be induced. If you have any questions or concerns about the risks associated with carrying a baby to 41 weeks, then don’t hesitate to ask. There’s no such thing as a silly question. 

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    41 weeks pregnant checklist

    Read about induction

    You might remember talking about inductions in your prenatal classes, but that might feel like a while ago now. You can think of induction as your health care provider giving your body a small push to set labor into motion. There are different ways they can do this

    • Softening your cervix: This is where medicine (known as prostaglandins) is inserted into your vagina to soften it so it can dilate. Alternatively, your doctor may use a catheter (which looks like a small tube) with a balloon on the end. The tube is inserted into your cervix, and then the balloon expands to open it. 
    • A membrane sweep: If your cervix is partly dilated, then your health care provider may be able to do a membrane sweep or “sweep.” They will insert a gloved finger into your cervix and swipe between your uterus and the amniotic sac. This may trigger the production of prostaglandins and help to soften your cervix. 
    • Oxytocin injection drip: Oxytocin is the hormone that triggers your uterus to contract during labor. Your doctor may offer you this to start labor or it may be given if your contractions slow down during labor. 

    Like many other aspects of pregnancy, there are also myths and tales that surround inducing labor at home. While they aren’t scientifically proven, some of them can be fun to try. They include: 

    Get ready for your baby’s arrival and familiarize yourself with the signs of labor 

    Between familiarizing yourself with the details of birth and learning some of the signs of labor to making sure you have all the items you’d like in your hospital bag, you may feel more than prepared for your baby’s arrival by 41 weeks. Your names may be picked out, your birth plan is by the door, and your labor playlist is ready to go. So, what now? 

    Remember that a key part of preparing for the arrival of your baby is ensuring you’re getting the rest you need. Keep talking to your loved ones and health care provider about any questions or worries you might have about birth, and listen to your body. 

    When to consult a doctor at 41 weeks pregnant 

    You may be having a checkup with your health care professional as often as once a week or even twice weekly, and, as you pass your due date, they may encourage you to come in so they can monitor your baby’s movements and heart rate. They may also have discussed the option of induction with you. Since you could have your baby at any time, it’s crucial to know and watch out for signs that you’re going into labor. These include

    • Your water breaking
    • Having regular contractions
    • Losing your mucus plug

    At 41 weeks pregnant, you should contact your doctor immediately if you experience: 

    This isn’t an exhaustive list and just some examples of the changes you should look out for. Some of these can be a sign of health complications, so it’s essential that you speak to your doctor about the best next step for you. And if you’re ever worried about any other symptoms you experience during pregnancy, then don’t hesitate to reach out to your health care provider. 

    41 weeks pregnant: The takeaway

    It can be hard to know when you’ll have your baby. While your loved ones may have predicted that you’ll carry to 41 weeks at your baby shower, it’s not something that many people feel totally prepared for. 

    Your doctor may have encouraged you to learn the typical signs of labor so you can spot any changes in your body, and you may have an induction booked to encourage labor to start. Rest assured that you’re going to see your baby soon. 


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    History of updates

    Current version (25 September 2023)

    Medically reviewed by Dr. Charlsie Celestine, Obstetrician and gynecologist, New Jersey, US
    Written by Alice Broster

    Published (24 February 2019)

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