by Katelyn Schwanke
(last updated September 5, 2008)
Most women expect pregnancy to last 9 months, but many are surprised to discover that 9 months is an average. Many women will give birth at 8 and many at 10. There are a variety of factors that contribute to your estimated due date, including, the date of your last period, family history, your health and the health of your baby. Rough estimations are available at babycenter.com where you can calculate your due date according to the regular length of your cycle (generally 28 days between periods) and the date of your last period.
Once you have estimated your due date, or been given an estimation from your physician, you can begin to take into account your family history and health. Women who were born premature or who have a history of premature births in their family are likely to give birth to their baby early as well. High blood pressure often contributes to premature birth too. If you have a history of miscarriages or inability to carry to term due to health problems, odds are this pregnancy will result in premature birth. What is considered premature? Baby's born less than 37 weeks since your last period are considered premature. Your baby may also be post mature (42 weeks or longer since your last period) for a variety of unknown reasons.
Knowing that your due date may be slightly off may raise questions in your mind regarding what happens if your baby is born post mature or premature. Sometimes your physician may notice key indicators that your baby will be born or late and will make arrangements however, sometimes it is completely unexpected. If your baby is expected early, your physician will make arrangements with a neo-natal unit (hospital intensive care unit for ill or premature infants) and make a plan for when you begin labor. Neo-natal units are staffed with highly trained physicians, nurse practitioners and registered nurses; your baby will be in good hands in any nationally accredited neo-natal intensive care unit.
If your baby does not arrive on time, depending on your health and your physician's preference your doctor may induce you. When you are induced your doctor injects you with a hormone that is naturally produced in the body during labor. This hormone is regularly called "oxytocin". The key to protecting your child no matter what due date you have is to keep up with prenatal visits and follow the advice of your physician.
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