What the hell do all these dates mean?

My Mum has told me stories about when she used to visit her GP while pregnant with me. He would take her blood pressure then ask her how the pregnancy was going. What he was most interested in though was how Dad’s golf scores were going! All while smoking a cigarette I might add!

It’s safe to say that things have definitely changed, especially when it comes to monitoring our pregnancies. For a first-time Mum all these dates and check-ups can seem a little overwhelming, especially when you first find out you’re pregnant.

So, what the hell do all those dates mean anyway? I’ve compiled a Birth Beat Cheat Sheet that outlines all the key dates you need, starting with working out your due date….

How to calculate your due date

One of the first tips I share with my Birth Beat parents in our childbirth class is to keep your ‘due date’ a secret. If you tell people an exact date, they will inevitably ask you constantly leading up to that date and then pester you daily once that date passes (if it does). So, a word of advice; just give a general answer, such as ‘mid-September’ and hopefully, that will take some of the pressure off!

After all – due dates are just an estimation and only 3-5% of babies are born on their due date.

But, I remember being in your shoes and wanting to know exactly how far along I was, what my due date was and how the baby was developing and growing each step of the way. You want to work out your due date and that is so understandable!

One of the things that often confuses women when trying to work out their due date is that pregnancy is measured from the first day of your last menstrual cycle. It’s not calculated based on the date of conception.

So, if your period started on the 1st January, you have an average cycle length of 28 days and you conceived on the 14th January (remembering that you need to have ovulated to conceive), your due date would be 8th October. 40 weeks starting from the 1st January, even though bub has technically only been inside your womb for 38 weeks!

What scans/ultrasounds do you need to have and when?

Dating Ultrasound

If you’re uncertain about the date of the first day of your last menstrual cycle, or you have an irregular cycle length, your caregiver may ask you to get a dating scan. These aren’t a requirement though and it’s best to avoid unnecessary scans wherever possible.

In the first few weeks of pregnancy, foetuses tend to develop at the same rate.  So, a scan in those first few weeks can fairly accurately predict how far along you are. As your pregnancy progresses, the rates that foetuses grow begins to vary so it becomes harder to accurately predict how far along you are.

A dating scan can take place anywhere from 6 weeks through to around 13 weeks to estimate your gestational due date.

Morphology Scan

If everything is tracking well in your pregnancy, you won’t need another ultrasound until the morphology scan which is offered between 18-22 weeks. This is a generally a routine scan that is given as part of normal obstetric care.

The purpose of the morphology scan is to check and track the growth and anatomy of your bub, the placement of the placenta and generally just to ensure that everything is developing normally.

Things that your sonographer (the person that performs the ultrasound) will check include; baby’s arms, hands, legs and feet, baby’s heart, baby’s digestive system and other internal organs, baby’s spine, head, face and also kidneys – babies wee frequently in the womb! They will also check that there is enough amniotic fluid around bub.

If you choose to find out, this is the scan where you can find out if you’re expecting a boy or a girl. Keep in mind this isn’t 100% accurate though! Some hospitals and healthcare providers actually have a policy to not reveal the gender so that they can avoid mistakes. Just ask if you’re uncertain.

Full Term

Anywhere from 37 – 42 weeks is considered a full-term pregnancy.

Think about that for a moment… that’s a five-week window in which your baby could be born within what’s considered a normal gestation! And yet we still get fixated on a single due date!?

Your due date is just a guide and a point from which your caregivers can estimate when your baby might make their arrival into the world. But try not to think of it as the actual date that bub is going to come. Be prepared for it to be before or after that magical date and remember my tip above for keeping that number secret from friends and relatives.

Depending on your location and model of care, you may be offered an induction if you go over 41 weeks which is often considered overdue. As your due date approaches and potentially passes, work with your caregiver to decide on a plan that works for you and your baby.

Every baby, every Mum and every pregnancy is unique. All the numbers and dates in pregnancy are estimations and there is always room on either side of the curve for variations on normal.

I know that you just can’t wait to meet your baby though! It’s only natural to want to know what’s happening and especially when it is that you’ll be able to hold that precious bubba in your arms.

I hope this has helped you make sense of all those dates!

If you’re expecting a bub this year, I’d love to be part of your journey as you prepare to welcome them into the world. Our online course has been taken by expecting Mummas from as early as 12 weeks, so that they can take full advantage of our prenatal yoga, right up until 38 weeks. Better late than never!

If you’d like to be able to find out everything you need to know to prepare for your best birth in the comfort of your own home, anytime that suits you, check out our Birth Beat Online Childbirth Course here.

Big Love, Edwina