Guidelines for the management of postterm pregnancy

J Perinat Med. 2010 Mar;38(2):111-9. doi: 10.1515/jpm.2010.057.


A pregnancy reaching 42 completed weeks (294 days) is defined as postterm (PT). The use of ultrasound in early pregnancy for precise dating significantly reduces the number of PT pregnancies compared to dating based on the last menstrual period. Although the fetal, maternal and neonatal risks increase beyond 41 weeks, there is no conclusive evidence that prolongation of pregnancy, per se, is the major risk factor. Other specific risk factors for adverse outcomes have been identified, the most important of which are restricted fetal growth and fetal malformations. In order to prevent PT and associated complications routine induction before 42 weeks has been proposed. There is no conclusive evidence that this policy improves fetal, maternal and neonatal outcomes as compared to expectant management. It is also unclear if the rate of cesarean sections is different between the two management strategies. After careful identification and exclusion of specific risks, it would seem appropriate to let women make an informed decision about which management they wish to undertake. There is consensus that the number of inductions necessary to possibly avoid one stillbirth is very high. If induction is preferred, procedures for cervical ripening should be used, especially in nulliparous women. Close intrapartum fetal surveillance should be offered, irrespective of whether labor was induced or not.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Birth Injuries / prevention & control
  • Cesarean Section / methods
  • Female
  • Fetal Monitoring / methods
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Labor, Induced / methods
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, Prolonged / diagnosis*
  • Pregnancy, Prolonged / therapy*
  • Stillbirth
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal / methods