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The question every mother wants answered immediately on confirmation of her pregnancy, is, "When will the baby be born?" This is a sensible query, and the answer can be given promptly. In fact, you can work it out for yourself.
There are lots of ways in which this may be done, and they all yield approximately the same answer. The actual duration of pregnancy is 266 days on average. This is the number of days from the moment conception occurs, to the moment the baby is born and becomes a viable, living person quite separate from its mother.
However, for the point of convenience, it is customary to measure dates, not from the time of conception, but from the first day of the last menstrual cycle. This, in a woman with a normal twenty-six- to thirty-two-day cycle, is 280 days. It equals nine calendar months (or ten "lunar" twenty-eight-day months).
The abbreviation L.M.P. is widely used by doctors and hospitals to refer to this important date, and it is the abbreviation for "Last Menstrual Period." From this date, the time of the baby's arrival can be readily calculated. This is referred to as the "E.D.C." This is short for "Estimated Date of Confinement."
To avoid the time-consuming job of sitting down and adding 280 days to the L.M.P., charts have been worked out which clearly indicate this. The top line gives the L.M.P. for each day of the year. Directly underneath is given the E.D.C. corresponding to each date. So, this chart can give the answer in a moment. A table of this nature is included for ready reference.
However, many doctors use another simple method. They simply add ten days to the L.M.P. and count back three months. That gives a fairly accurate date, and this is projected ahead.
For example, let's say the L.M.P. was June 10.
June 10 + 10 days = June 20, less three months = March 20.
The E.D.C. will then be March 20 the following year.
It is as simple as that, and it is remarkably accurate. Many doctors use this quick method, and it can be worked out in a matter of moments. In fact, patients are always impressed at the speed at which this date is arrived at, particularly as most have already pre-checked with a table themselves, and find the dates coincide.
There are various other methods of determinĀ­ing the baby's birth date. The "time of quickening" is sometimes used as a rough guide. This is when movements are first felt. But as this can vary between the sixteenth and twenty-fourth week, it is of limited value.
As time progresses, the doctor usually measures the height of the fundus. This means that he presses his hand into the abdomen to determine the upper extent of the growing womb.
The womb enlarges at a fairly constant rate, and the height, as it is called, usually coincides with the number of weeks of development of the baby.
For instance, at twelve weeks the fundus is just starting to edge above the symphysis, the front part of the bony pelvis. By sixteen weeks, it has risen to midway between the symphysis and the navel. It has reached twenty weeks when it rises to the level of the navel.
Every two weeks the rise increases by two fingers' breadth until it reaches the level of the navel. After this, it rises one finger's breadth each week.
This is nothing for you to worry about, but it is a good guide to the doctor. If the fundus is rising too rapidly, or if it is not rising at the normally anticipated rate, it means that all is not well, and investigation may be required as to the reason.
In some larger centers a relatively new concept of early recognition of pregnancy is being used in the form of ultrasound. In fact some centers claim it may be accurately diagnosed on the fourteenth day. Later on, head measurements may be carried out which can give accurate age assessments. However, these methods are not being used widely at present, but in the future, they may see a major surge forward as a method of early diagnosis, and monitoring of the foetus.