If you were having regular periods before pregnancy, your doctor will calculate your due date based off of your last menstrual period. This goes back to the fact that in order to get pregnant, your body ovulated—or released an egg—roughly in the middle of your cycle and it was fertilized by sperm. That was the moment of conception.
By the time most women miss a period and find out they’re pregnant, the baby has been growing for 2 weeks, but the mother is actually 4 weeks along because the gestational period starts with the first day of your last period.
To clarify, the gestational period of 40 weeks actually starts with the first day of your last period, which adds two weeks of time to the gestational period when your baby didn’t even exist yet…clear as mud, right?
Is an ultrasound a more accurate way of finding out my due date?
If you are having irregular cycles before getting pregnant, an ultrasound is usually done to find out how far along you are. An ultrasound is actually the most accurate way to date a pregnancy because all fetuses grow at a consistent rate during the first trimester and early second.
In other words, if your baby measures 9 weeks 2 days when you have your ultrasound, that’s how far along you are, no matter when your last period was.
Some women with regular cycles are confused about why their ultrasound due date doesn’t match up with their last menstrual period due date. Ovulation isn’t a perfect science and can happen earlier or later than the norm, which might shift your due date slightly.
That’s okay…a few days or even a week of discrepancy won’t change your dates. Your doctor will go with the due date obtained from your ultrasound.
What happens if my baby is measuring big or small later on? Does my due date need to change or will I deliver early?
You’ll notice at every prenatal appointment after 20 weeks, your doctor will measure your belly. That measurement should match your gestational age in centimeters. If you are measuring smaller or larger than what you should be, then the doctor might order an ultrasound. This will tell them if the discrepancy is due to the actual size of the baby, the amount of fluid surrounding the baby, or maybe just the way you’re carrying the baby.
If the baby is actually smaller or larger than what they should be, underlying issues need to be considered that might be causing the discrepancy in growth. For example, mothers with uncontrolled diabetes (Type 1, Type 2, or Gestational) cook very large babies. When a baby is small, it might be due to a placenta that’s not working like it should.
These discrepancies might affect delivery, but they might not. For example, if your baby is consistently measuring small and falling below where they should be, your doctor might decide you need to be delivered because your baby would be better out than in.
If your baby is extra big and you’re measuring 40 weeks at 37 weeks, your body might think it’s done and go into labor early….or you might go to your due date and things will go as planned. If you have questions about your due date, talk with your doctor who can give you the best information.