What is gestational age?

The age of an unborn baby is known as the gestational age. This calculation is often difficult to do with complete precision, since the exact date and time when conception occurs is rarely known. Therefore, it is usually necessary to base the number, counted in weeks, on a definite date, such as the first day of the mother's last menstrual period.

In most cases, calculating gestational age assumes that conception occurred 14 days after the first day of the last period. Since conception can typically occur between 11 and 21 days later, the use of 14 days is only an average estimate, with the possibility of an error of several days. The baby's due date is assumed to be 40 weeks from the first day of menstruation; however, only a small percentage of babies are born on their due date. Women who want to know the estimated gestational age of their fetus and the expected date of delivery of the child can consult with their doctor to obtain that information; There are also a variety of websites that provide tools to do the calculation for them.

There are certain ways to estimate gestational age that can provide more accuracy than basing it on the last menstrual period. Women will usually have specific physical signs that they are ovulating, such as changes in cervical and mucosal position; Those who know these changes and also know when they had intercourse can have much more specific knowledge of what day conception took place. Ultrasound, particularly early in pregnancy, can reveal physical indicators of the fetus's age. In cases where fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization are used, the date and even the time of conception are definitely known. Once the baby is born, doctors can assess her age based on physical development.

Knowing a baby's true gestational age becomes particularly important at the time of birth. A baby born before 37 weeks is considered premature; Babies in this situation are often susceptible to a variety of medical problems, such as intraventricular hemorrhage or respiratory distress. Understanding where the newborn is in its development can help doctors understand which problems are most likely to occur and develop a treatment plan that provides the baby with the best possible care. Observing certain physical characteristics, such as length, weight, and reflexes just after delivery, helps doctors make this determination.

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