In spite of all the pains and troubles, almost every woman recalls her pregnancy as the happiest time in her life. However, every future mom is looking forward to the due date and, of course, tries to calculate it as accurately as possible. But not everyone knows that there are nuances in the process of calculating how long a full-term pregnancy is.
A full-term pregnancy: how long are you going to wait?
How much time does a full-term pregnancy take? Unfortunately, it’s impossible to calculate due date with 100% accuracy. The date your doctor tells you is the estimated date of delivery (EDD).
There are cases when the expected due date matches the actual one. But all these cases are nothing but a coincidence.
Even if the woman knows for sure the dates of the conception and the ovulation, it’s impossible to determine the speed of the sperm, the number of days the fertilized egg goes through the Fallopian tube, when exactly it implants into the uterine wall, and how much time the fetus needs for its full development. The baby will be born when they’re ready.
Due to the fact that the organism of any woman is individual, these processes take a different course in each specific case. Medical experts use the average standard which is customary to rely on.
So, how many weeks is a full-term pregnancy? Scientists have counted that in 80% of the cases there are 266 days between the moment of conception and birth, so it makes up 38 weeks. But the main difficulty of this calculation lies in the fact that, as a rule, expectant mothers don’t know the exact day of the conception.
The last period is easier for a woman to remember, that’s why this particular date has been taken as a starting point. Thus, there are usually 40 weeks since the last period till the day of the delivery. That’s why obstetricians usually tell that the full-term pregnancy lasts 40 weeks or 280 days.
However, the woman couldn’t get pregnant on the first day of her last period, so the due date doctors calculate according to this information is approximate. It’s called estimated (or menstrual) due date.
In fact, the real fetal age is about two weeks less. This term is more accurate. It is called ovulation (or fertilization) age. In order to determine the due date as precisely as possible, future mothers need to calculate the date of their ovulation.
How to calculate the ovulation date?
It’s hard to believe, but every month there is only one day when a woman can get pregnant. In very rare cases, a woman can have two ovulations during the same month.
There is a simple method of calculating the ovulation date without any additional devices. It’s already been proved that absolutely every woman has ovulation 14 days before the first day of her monthly period.
If the menstrual cycle is 28-days-long, the ovulation happens on the 14th day after the first day of a period.
This method is indeed very simple. However, it has one disadvantage – this method is suitable only for those women who have a regular menstrual cycle. Besides, you can calculate the ovulation date only when you have the exact schedule of your cycles during at least half a year.
There is even more: in particular cases, the ovulation can happen a bit earlier or a bit later. But if you choose the approximate ovulation date as a starting point of your pregnancy, it turns out that the average pregnancy lasts 266 days (280-14=266).
That’s exactly why medical experts call a pregnancy which lasts from 266 to 294 days (or from 38 to 42 weeks) a full-term pregnancy.
It’s not hard to notice that 280 days (40 weeks) make up 9 calendar months.
However, obstetricians have their own method of counting months. According to them, a full-term pregnancy lasts 10 months. Why is that so? An obstetrical month is also a so-called “lunar month” which is 28-days-long. This is the very amount of time a menstrual cycle of the majority of women usually takes.
What factors have an influence on a full-term pregnancy?
First of all, the state of a future mother’s health affects the course of a full-term pregnancy. But there are also other factors, for example:
- The psychological condition of a future mother;
- Fetal development;
- The intrauterine state.
If the case of a premature birth, as well as a prolonged pregnancy, there are additional threats of adverse birth outcomes, which can affect the mother’s and the baby’s health in the negative.
These conditions can be caused by neuroendocrine disorders, past illnesses, and previous abortions. Statistically, prolonged pregnancies are usually experienced by those mothers who have been treated for the risk of a miscarriage. A prolonged pregnancy is a pregnancy which lasts longer than 42 weeks.
A lot of expectant mothers fear premature birth more than a prolonged pregnancy. However, in fact, a prolonged pregnancy is very dangerous.
Medical experts still can’t tell where exactly lies the reason for prolonged pregnancies. They usually highlight two main factors of the problem: medical and psychological.
According to the medical point of view, the cause of the problem lies in the physical unreadiness of the woman to give birth. It can be explained by the following factors:
- Late maturity of the cervix;
- Uterine muscles’ disorders;
- Fetal development problems;
- Hormonal disorders;
- Endocrine and gynecological diseases of the mother;
- Uterine pathologies;
- Hereditary issues.
There is more: the pregnancy term depends on the future mother’s age. The prolonged pregnancy usually happens when a woman gets pregnant for the first time after 35.
All the reasons which could be included in the medical aspect are detected with the help of additional examinations and tests. But the psychological aspect often causes difficulties.
Sometimes, a future mother is psychologically not ready for childbirth. The main reason for it is the unconscious fear of the process of the delivery. The expectant mom can be afraid of the pain or the possibility of losing her baby, slowing down the beginning of the natural childbirth process.
The very first signs of a prolonged pregnancy are a reason worth a consultation with an expert. After an additional ultrasound, a specialist will be able to evaluate the state of the placenta, amniotic fluid, and, of course, the baby.
If the ultrasound shows the traces of meconium in the amniotic fluid or there are problems with the baby’s heartbeat, the doctor makes a decision to cause childbirth or perform a C-section.
Don’t argue with your healthcare provider in this case because the consequences of a prolonged pregnancy can be serious!
40% of the prolonged pregnancies end in placental insufficiency. As a result, it’s unable to provide the baby with necessary nutrients and oxygen.
During a prolonged pregnancy, the fetus often gains excess weight which, of course, makes the delivery more complicated.
20% of babies born after a prolonged pregnancy have the so-called “post-term pregnancy syndrome” when skin problems appear.
The baby’s body has too little subcutaneous fat which slows down their growth. Besides, the risk of birth injury increases after the 42nd week.
Most often it is Erba paralysis, broken limbs or collarbones, and brachial plexus damage.
In this case, the woman in labor also faces certain risks, such as:
- Perineal damage;
- Uterine injury;
- Obstructed labor;
- Postpartum hemorrhage.
There is a reason why a post-term pregnancy is called “pathological”, after all. So, if you want to avoid an unfortunate outcome, you’d better turn to a doctor in time.
However, you shouldn’t forget about the inaccuracy of due date calculations. As we’ve mentioned before, plus or minus two weeks to your term is a normal occurrence. You shouldn’t worry before the 42nd week.
It’s more beneficial for you and your baby to get physically and psychologically ready for childbirth. During this period of time, future mothers need a good rest.
Childbirth is a stressful event for your organism, that’s why you should spend enough time sleeping. A lot of women attend pregnancy courses where experts tell how to act during the delivery.
Nowadays, there is also a lot of information on the issue online – search for any question you’re concerned about: knowledge will make you more confident and dispel your unnecessary fears.
And, of course, you should remember that after childbirth you’ll meet the closest and the most important to you person – your dear little one!