It is important in pregnancy that an estimated due date be calculated in order to provide appropriate prenatal care for the expectant mother. However, it may be difficult for a sexually active woman to remember the exact date of conception. Without an ultrasound, the age of the fetus and the estimated date of delivery is calculated based on the first day of the last menstrual period. This is something most women can remember.
From the first day of the last menstruation, the estimated due date would fall on the 120th day or the 40th week. This is calculated using Nagele’s rule which subtracts three months and adds 7 days to the date of the first day of menstruation. For example, if the first day of the last menstruation is on the 10th of May it will be 5-10 minus 3 months plus 7 days. The projected delivery date will be 2-17 or the 17th of February the following year. Since this is an estimate, an allowance of +/- 7 days is allowed.
Pregnancy is divided into three periods or trimesters. Each trimester consists of three calendar months.
The first trimester is where a lot of adjustments are made by the mother’s body to accommodate the developing fetus. Early in pregnancy, there is slight bleeding or spotting caused by the implantation of the developing fertilized egg into the wall of the uterus. Most of the bodily changes are hormonal in nature in preparation for the growth and development of the baby. These may include breast enlargement and tenderness, constipation, whitish vaginal discharge, fatigue or sleepiness, mood swings, cravings, morning sickness, frequent urination, weight gain, and increased sensitivity to odors, taste and/or sound. After implantation, the fetus begins forming organs and the placenta develops as well.
Danger signs that expectant mothers should watch out for at anytime during pregnancy includes severe abdominal pain, profuse bleeding, and severe dizziness. Call the doctor or go to the hospital as soon as possible if any of these occur.
During the second trimester, the body has adjusted to the hormonal changes. It is this period where most of the baby’s organs are already formed and in different stages of completion. There is more weight gain as well as increase in the size of the abdomen of the mother as the baby and placenta grows in size and weight.
The baby’s movements can be felt by the mother and the sex can be checked by ultrasound. Most of the discomforts during the first trimester should be gone by now. The breasts continue to enlarge but without much of the tenderness. Most women experience backache because of the weight. Uncomfortable shoes should be avoided especially high heels and stilettos. Wear comfortable flat shoes and avoid carrying heavy objects.
It is important that women should store up on calcium even before they get pregnant to strengthen the bones of the spine and reduce the pain in the back during pregnancy. Other hormonal changes at this time may cause gum and nose bleeding, nasal congestion, hair growth, heartburn, headache, haemorrhoids, varicose veins, and more weight gain. During this time the expectant mother looks glowing or rosy cheeked because of the estrogen effect.
By the third trimester, all the baby’s organs are developed except for some parts of the brain, lungs, ears and kidneys. The baby keeps growing in length, size, and weight. Around this time a congenital screening test may be done to see if all parts of the baby’s body have developed properly or, in case a congenital defect is found, to prepare the family for the baby’s care after delivery. Mild contractions can be felt at this time, usually accompanying the baby’s movement. This can be differentiated from labor by the duration and frequency of contractions.
Labor contractions occur at regular intervals that become more frequent and longer as it progresses. Backaches are more pronounced at this time because of the weight of the pregnancy as well as the breasts that are now engorged with milk. Fatigue and sleepiness are felt again and there may be blood tinged vaginal discharge. There may be swelling on the hands, legs and feet caused by pooling of fluids. This can be remedied by keeping the feet elevated when lying down.
However if the swelling happened suddenly, the doctor should be notified in case this is caused by high blood pressure or eclampsia or preeclampsia. By the end of this trimester, the expectant mother should be ready to deliver the baby and the baby is ready and in position for delivery. Signs that delivery is near includes increased frequency, duration and intensity of contractions, vaginal bleeding, rupture of the bag of water, or in some cases nausea and/or vomiting.
There are cases where a caesarean section or C-section is necessary. These include maternal fatigue, loss of uterine contractions, the baby is in breech position, or any circumstance where the baby is in jeopardy and cannot be delivered on time with a vaginal delivery, and any conditions where a vaginal delivery may be a danger to the mother. The latter two can be determined before the delivery date and a scheduled C-section can be made even without labor.
The most accurate way to calculate the estimated due date is by ultrasound during the first trimester or early in the second trimester of pregnancy. The size of the baby’s head and the length is measured and a calculation of the baby’s age is made with these factors. Using the baby’s age, the delivery date is calculated.
There are pregnancy information sites on the internet that also has calculators that uses the Nagele’s rule. All that needs to be done is to enter the date of the first day of the last menstruation and the projected date of delivery is given. Sites like this give much useful information that will help alleviate the concerns about pregnancy, delivery and child care. Aside from this, there is information and tips on home care as well as preparations and all the things that are needed for the coming of the newest family member.