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Gestational age

Definition

Gestation is the period of time between conception and birth. During this time, the baby grows and develops inside the mother's womb.

Gestational age is the common term used during pregnancy to describe how far along the pregnancy is. It is measured in weeks, from the first day of the woman's last menstrual cycle to the current date. A normal pregnancy can range from 38 to 42 weeks.

Infants born before 37 weeks are considered premature. Infants born after 42 weeks are considered postmature.

Alternative Names

Fetal age; Gestation

Information

Gestational age can be determine before or after birth.

Before birth, your doctor will use ultrasound to measure the size of the baby's head, abdomen, and thigh bone. This helps determine how well the baby is growing in the womb.

After birth, gestational age can be measured by looking at the baby's weight, length, head circumference, vital signs, reflexes, muscle tone, posture, and condition of the skin and hair. The baby's developmental gestational age may not be the same as the calendar age. For example, an infant born at 36 weeks may actually have a developmental gestational age of 38 weeks. Such a baby may be more like a full-term infant than a preemie.

Determination of gestational age is important. It gives your doctor key information and directly affects the medical treatment plan for the baby.


Review Date: 11/7/2011
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine; David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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