Posts Tagged ‘due date’

Why is 39 weeks so important?

Thursday, March 30th, 2017

midwife measuring pregnancy bellyIf your pregnancy is healthy, it is best to wait for labor to begin on its own. And if you do decide to induce labor, ask your provider if you can wait until at least 39 weeks.

Most people think that pregnancy lasts 9 months. But that isn’t exactly true. Pregnancy usually lasts about 40 weeks (280 days) from the first day of your last menstrual period (also called LMP) to your due date. A first trimester ultrasound can also help to determine your due date.

In the past, a pregnancy that lasted anywhere between 37 to 42 weeks was called a term pregnancy. Health care providers once thought this 5-week period was a safe time for most babies to be born.

But experts now know that scheduling your baby’s birth a little early for non-medical reasons can cause problems for both mom and baby. Getting to at least 39 weeks gives your baby the time he needs to grow.

Why is 39 weeks so important?

Here’s why your baby needs 39 weeks:

  • Important organs, like his brain, lungs and liver, get the time they need to develop. At 35 weeks, a baby’s brain weighs just two-thirds of what it does at 39 weeks.
  • There is more time to gain weight. Babies born at a healthy weight have an easier time staying warm than babies who are born too small.
  • Your baby will be able to feed better. Babies born early can sometimes have difficulties with sucking, swallowing, and staying awake long enough to eat.
  • Your baby is less likely to have vision and hearing problems after birth.

Why can scheduling an early birth cause problems?

There are some risks associated with inducing labor:

  • Your due date may not be exactly right. Even with an ultrasound, your due date can be off by as much as 2 weeks. If you schedule an induction and your due date is wrong, your baby may be born too early.
  • Pitocin, the medication used to induce labor, can make contractions very strong and lower your baby’s heart rate.
  • You and your baby have a higher risk of infection if labor doesn’t begin soon after your water breaks.
  • If the medications used to induce labor do not work, you may need to have a c-section.

What if there are problems with your pregnancy?

You may not have a choice about when to have your baby. Your provider may need to induce labor to help keep you and your baby safe. If your provider does decide to induce labor for the health and safety of you and your baby, you can learn more about how labor is induced on our website.

Remember: If your pregnancy is healthy, it is best to let labor begin on its own. If you and your baby are healthy, and you and your provider decide to induce labor, make sure you wait until at least 39 weeks. Healthy babies are worth the wait!

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Pregnant? How far along are you in your pregnancy?

Monday, March 28th, 2016

pr_mr_lg_ultrasound1Many health care professionals will begin to estimate how far along you are in your pregnancy by asking you when the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP) was. But the development of your baby does not begin until conception – which is after your last period.

Are you confused? Let me explain…

Your pregnancy has two ages, gestational age and fetal age. Both are measured in weeks but they will be different numbers. Your gestational age is the age of the pregnancy from the first day of your last normal menstrual period. Your fetal age is the actual age of your growing baby from the day you conceived.

Health care providers use gestational age when dating a pregnancy. It is very difficult to determine an accurate date of conception, so your health care provider may estimate when you conceived based on the first day of your last period. This is your gestational age.

While your provider will use your LMP to initially date your pregnancy, according to the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists (ACOG), an ultrasound measurement of your baby in the first trimester is the most accurate method of confirming your gestational age. Keep in mind, after a first trimester ultrasound, your due date may be adjusted.

Why is it important to be aware of both?

We often hear from pregnant women that their baby’s development is not matching up with how far along they are in their pregnancy. For example, one question we received, the woman was 12 weeks pregnant but her baby was measuring 10 weeks along.  It is important to confirm with your provider that your gestational age is 12 weeks and your fetal age is 10 weeks – which means your pregnancy is on track. (Keep in mind that there may be other reasons why a baby is not developing on a typical schedule. If you are concerned, speak with your prenatal provider.)

Not sure how far along you are? Our due date calculator, will date your pregnancy based on gestational age.

Still have questions? Text or email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Due date calculator

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Pregnancy usually lasts 280 days (40 weeks) from the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period. Here’s a link to our interactive Due Date Calculator that will help you estimate the date your baby will arrive.

Remember, though, that this calculator is a general guide: every pregnancy is unique, and sometimes babies arrive sooner or later than expected. Always talk to your health care provider about your due date. And be sure you know the signs of preterm labor and what to do, just in case.

Still pregnant after 40 weeks

Friday, June 15th, 2012

past-due1You have waited 40 long weeks to have your baby.  You are ready to be done with pregnancy and meet your little bundle of joy.  But your due date comes and goes and there is no baby.  And then another week passes…and there is still no baby.  By now the joy of pregnancy has probably worn off and you are more than ready to have your baby.  You may begin to wonder if your pregnancy will ever end!

Although most of us focus on our due date, you have to keep in mind that it is really only an educated guess.  It is completely normal for a baby to be born either before or even after his due date.  In fact, that is why a term pregnancy is considered anywhere between 37-42 completed weeks.

But what happens if your pregnancy looks like it may actually go past 42 weeks?  A pregnancy that lasts more than 42 weeks is considered post-term. We don’t know why some women (about 3-12%) have post-term pregnancies.  Frequently, it is because their dates were miscalculated.

Some other reasons you may have a post-term pregnancy include:
• First pregnancy
• History (personal or family) of prior overdue pregnancies
• Baby is a boy
• Obesity

Rarely, overdue pregnancy might be related to problems with the placenta or the baby.

As your pregnancy continues past 40 weeks, it is important that you keep going to your prenatal care appointments.  If at any time it looks like the baby or you may not be as healthy as your health care provider would like, or you show no signs of going into labor on your own, your health care provider will begin to discuss inducing labor.

You may not want to be induced and you may prefer to let nature take its course, but remember that there are things that your health care provider needs to consider.  Your baby will continue to grow, so his size may become an issue.  The volume of amniotic fluid may begin to decrease and the placenta may start to age and not work as effectively.  This can put your baby at risk for complications.  And there is an increased chance that your baby will inhale meconium (fecal waste) during delivery which can cause breathing problems or an infection after birth.  Remember that the goal of managing a post-term pregnancy is to prevent complications and deliver a healthy baby.

If you and your health care provider do decide that inducing labor is best, there are different methods available. You can discuss which option is best for you with your provider.  There may be some risks associated with inducing labor, but there are also risks to allowing a pregnancy to continue for too long.  Make sure you talk to your health care provider—she will weigh the risks and benefits and together you can decide on a plan that is safe for both you and your baby.  And once your baby is born and in your arms, the long, long wait will be a distant memory!

Calculating your due date

Friday, January 21st, 2011

pregnant-womanWe have a handy calculator for you.  But remember, this isn’t an exact science and babies tend to come when they’re ready, not when we’re ready, so be sure to give yourself some elbow room with this.

Fertilization of the egg usually takes place 14 days before a woman’s next period.  A full-term pregnancy usually lasts about 280 days (40 weeks) from the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period. You can do the math and count on all your fingers and toes, or you can click on this handy link to our calculator.

Be sure to get early and regular prenatal care from your doc, certified nurse-midwife or other health professional so you and your baby are as healthy as possible when the big day does finally arrive.

How will the baby affect our relationship?

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

After the baby is born I wonder how long it will be until my husband and I go to a movie or out to dinner. How old will the baby be before I feel comfortable leaving him/her with a relative or babysitter for a night out. At the moment we can accept an invitation to get together with friends any night of the week. RSVP, “yes” to a wedding that’s an hour away or plan a vacation and pack one small suitcase.

It seems people like to ask how I’m sleeping lately. When I say, “just fine” the standard come-back is usually, “well enjoy it while you can.” Oh, zip-it! I know they’re right, but I hate hearing that. How will sleep deprivation affect my relationship with my husband and our ability to be patient or affectionate? I don’t know yet. I hear all the time that couples need to make time for each other. But realistically, especially in the beginning, is that possible?

Before I got pregnant, I thought about the emotional and lifestyle changes we’ll face as parents. We both decided that we were ready for this. Now that my due date is right around the corner it’s really setting in though. Our independence and free time will NEVER be what it once was. Are you having or thinking about having a baby? Do you worry about this stuff, too?

Working right up to the big day

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Two days in a row now I’ve been asked by separate people when I plan to work up until. This struck me as odd. I plan to work right up until I deliver, of course. What other option is there? I’m due the end of February and I’m a first time mom. This little one could very well have a March birthday. I’m not about to take off around the time of my due date, sit at home and wait for something to happen. I’d go crazy. What did you do or plan to do?