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How your Due Date is Calculated
The question that most often follows "Am I really pregnant?" is "When is my baby due?". Guessing your baby's due date is one of the more fun aspects of the first couple of weeks of pregnancy. You can work with your healthcare practitioner to determine the estimated due date of your baby. Most healthcare providers calculate pregnancy from the beginning of the last menstrual cycle.
Using this method, you are actually considered pregnant in the two weeks preceding actual conception.This results in a calculation of 40 weeks for the entire pregnancy, even though pregnancy generally lasts about 38 weeks from the time of conception.
The moment of conception is technically when you first became pregnant, but obstetricians don't calculate the age of your baby this way. Using the date of conception is too inaccurate; since the majority of women don't know the time and day they conceived. Most women, however, can recall when they had their last period. So doctors use the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP) to calculate your due date.
A gestational age (weeks pregnant) calculated in this way erroneously assumes pregnancy to have begun approximately 2 weeks before ovulation.
Obstetricians use this gestational age dating system to make reference to the numbers of weeks pregnant you are. In contrast, embryologists and other reproductive biologists more often employ ovulatory age or fertilization age, both of which are typically 2 weeks of pregnancy shorter than the dating system used by obstetricians.
Most women will actually deliver on a date other than their due date. In fact, typically only 1 in 20 women will actually deliver on their due date. Many moms can actually go up to week 42 before they begin active labor on their own. It helps if you consider your due date as a rough estimation of the range of time your baby might be born, rather than the day your baby will definitively make an appearance into the world.
Early Signs and Symptoms of Pregnancy
Typically most women will not start experiencing true pregnancy symptoms until 10 to 14 days after ovulation, though some women can experience symptoms as early as a few days after conception.
The most common signs and symptoms of early pregnancy are:
- Missed period
- Nausea with or without vomiting
- Increased fatigue
- Breast enlargement and tenderness
- Frequent need to urinate
- Sleep disturbances
- Increased basal body temperature that remains elevated
- Slight spotting or brownish staining (implantation bleeding)
Pregnancy Health Section
Signs of Ovulation - Understanding when you Ovulate
Every month, a mature egg is released from one of your ovaries. (Occasionally, you may release more than one egg.) This is called ovulation, and it’s the key to becoming pregnant. If you don’t ovulate, there’s no chance that conception will occur.
Immediately following ovulation, the mature egg will travel down through the fallopian tube and into the uterus. If the egg is fertilized during this journey, you will become pregnant. If the unfertilized egg reaches the uterus, the egg will dissolve and you’ve missed your chance of pregnancy for that month.
Girls are born with one to two million eggs in their ovaries, and by the time they reach puberty, they only have 300 to 400 eggs left for ovulation.
How Ovulation Works
In order for you to understand how ovulation works, you have to learn about the ovarian cycle – the changes that occur within your ovaries to prepare it for ovulation. The ovarian cycle is divided into three stages: the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase.
The follicular phase begins on the first day of your menstrual cycle, and it ends right before ovulation. During the follicular phase, the hypothalamus (the area of your brain that maintains your hormone levels) sends a signal to your pituitary gland to start producing a follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). This hormone triggers several of your follicles (a fluid-filled sac that where an immature egg grows) to develop into mature eggs.
As the follicles mature, the level of estrogen increases. Estrogen tells the hypothalamus to stop producing FSH. This will limit the number of follicles that mature. As the follicular phase continues, one follicle in your ovary will become the dominant one. The dominant follicle prevents the other follicles from maturing further, so they stop growing and die.
When estrogen levels are high enough and your egg is mature, a luteinizing hormone (LH) is released. This is known as your LH surge (which is what ovulation predictor kits measure).
Within 24 to 36 hours after the LH surge, ovulation takes place. The mature egg bursts out if its follicle, and the finger-like ends of the fallopian tube (called the fimbriae) capture the egg and sweep it into the tube. The unfertilized egg makes its way down the fallopian tube and into the uterus. The egg will only survive 12 to 24 hours after ovulation before it dissolves.
The luteal phase begins immediately after ovulation. After the egg is released, the ruptured follicle develops into a structure called the corpus luteum. The corpus luteum will begin to produce a hormone called progesterone – which begins to thicken the lining of your uterus to prepare your body for implantation. If your partner’s sperm fertilizes the egg, the fertilized egg (now called an embryo) will implant itself into your uterine lining. If this happens, you’re pregnant!
If fertilization doesn’t take place, the egg dissolves and your hormonal levels will decrease. Your uterine lining will break down and be shed during menstruation (your period).
Did you know that 250 million sperm are released at ejaculation, and only a few hundred will actually make its way to the site of the egg? And only one lucky sperm will be able to penetrate the outer layer of the egg and fertilize it.
Because ovulation is vital to conception, you will want to know when you might be ovulating. For women with average 28-day cycles, they will often ovulate on day 14 of their menstrual cycle. However, there are many factors that can affect ovulation, including stress, hormonal problems, body weight, certain medications, illnesses, and etc. Because of these reasons, you may not want to rely solely on the “Day 14” rule. You should pay attention to the subtle changes in your body.
Increase in Basal Body Temperature
After you ovulate, you can expect your temperature to increase by 0.4 to 1.0 degrees. Although you won’t feel your temperature getting any higher, you can detect this change using a basal body temperature thermometer (which is available at most drugstores for $10). This temperature spike indicates that your egg has been released from the follicle. You only have 12 to 24 hours after this temperature spike to conceive. After this point, many experts agree that it’s too late for fertilization. For this reason, charting your basal body temperature on a daily basis is a good and inexpensive way to figure out when you’ve ovulated.
You’ll want to start charting your body temperature on the first day of your period. This allows you to see the overall pattern, not just a slight temperature pike here or there. It’s common for your basal body temperature to rise and fall as your menstrual cycle progresses, but there will be a noticeable change after you ovulate. In general, your body temperatures are lower before you ovulate. After ovulation, your body temperature rises slightly and continues to stay higher until the beginning of the next cycle. If you’ve noticed higher than average temperatures for three days in a row, then you can assume that you ovulated on the day before the first high temperature. Some women are lucky, and they notice a strong dip in temperature on the day they ovulate. Most of the time, however, it’s just a slight increase.
For best results, you should take your temperature at the same time every morning, before you get out of bed. Getting up, walking around, or going to the bathroom before taking your temperature can throw off your results. Be patient – it may take several months before you start to recognize a pattern in your temperatures. Use this information to help you predict when you may be ovulating during the month.
More Cervical Discharge
The consistency and amount of cervical mucus that you produce will change throughout your menstrual cycle. During your infertile periods, you may be feeling quite dry and uncomfortable. As you approach ovulation, you may have moist or sticky cervical discharge that is white or creamy in color. As ovulation gets closer, your mucus will increase in volume.
Lower Abdominal Pain (Mittelschmerz)
Around the time of ovulation, some women have lower abdominal pain or mild cramping. This is called mittelschmerz, which is German for “middle pain.” An estimated one-fifth of women in their reproductive years experience this ovulation symptom. Mittelschmerz can range in severity from mild twinges to severe discomfort, and it can last from a few minutes to several hours. It’s usually felt on one side of the abdomen – depending on which ovary is releasing the egg that month. This ovulation pain typically goes away within 24 hours.
Sometimes, women notice a small amount of vaginal bleeding (or spotting) along with this ovulation pain.
Because ovulation signs and symptoms are subtle, you may want to take the easy road and buy an over-the-counter ovulation predictor kit – which measure the level of luteinizing hormone (LH). These kits are able to pinpoint your exact date of ovulation by 12 to 24 hours, and they are actually 99 percent accurate. For best results, always follow the instructions. Make sure that you use the kit at the same time each day.
10 Steps to Prepare Your Body for Pregnancy
- Schedule a Preconception Checkup
- Take a Prenatal Multivitamin with Folic Acid
- Stop Smoking and Drinking Today
- Make Healthy Food Choices
- Slow Down on Your Coffee Intake
- Lose Weight
- Call Your Dentist
- Mentally Prepared
- Say Goodbye to Birth Control
It’s a good idea to call your general practitioner, gynecologist, or healthcare provider and schedule a preconception checkup. At this appointment, your doctor will review your medical history, family medical history, any medications you’re taking, and any pre-existing illnesses you may have. Your physician may also discuss your weight, diet and eating habits, and lifestyle choices (such as smoking, alcohol consumption, and illegal drugs).
The purpose of a preconception checkup is for your doctor to give you individual guidance on what you can expect from your pregnancy. He or she can give you recommendations on lifestyle and dietary changes; medications you may need to stop taking before becoming pregnant; complications you may encounter during your pregnancy; and other related concerns. Preconception checkups are to ensure that you’re healthy enough to carry a baby for nine months. They’re also aimed at helping you develop a plan to have the healthiest pregnancy possible.
The moment that you decide that you want to conceive, you have to run to the drugstore and buy a prenatal multivitamin with folic acid – the water soluble B-vitamin that can reduce your baby’s risk of neutral tube birth defects. Experts recommend that women trying to conceive should get at least 400 micrograms of folic acid into their diets at least one month before conception. Taking folic acid before and during pregnancy can cut your child’s risk of neutral tube defects by 50 to 75 percent.
If you’re addicted to cigarettes or you drink on a regular basis, use your future baby as an excuse to stop.
Smoking during pregnancy has been linked to miscarriage, low birth weight babies, and premature birth. (Nicotine restricts blood flow to the placenta, which then restricts your unborn baby’s oxygen supply.) For women who smoke, it’s best to try to quit before you get pregnant.
Did you know that smoking might also decrease your fertility? Research has suggested that tobacco use may have negative effects on ovulation, tubal transport (the process of your egg making its way through the fallopian tubes), and implantation (the fertilized egg embedding itself in your womb). This means that it may be harder for smokers to get pregnant in the first place. If your man smokes, you may want him to quit too. Smoking can lower his sperm count, and it can affect his motility (sperm that don’t properly swim).
Alcohol is detrimental to your unborn baby, as well. Excessive alcohol consumption can cause fetal alcohol spectrum disorders – a range of lifelong disorders characterized by mental and physical birth defects. You definitely want to cut out any alcoholic drinks if you’re trying to conceive.
When you’re trying to conceive, you’ll want to start adopting healthy eating habits. Make sure that you eat a balanced diet that’s chock full of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and seafood, lean meats, and dairy products. You’ll want to eat nutritious foods now, so that your body will have the nutritional stores required for a healthy pregnancy.
If you consume more than 300 milligrams of caffeine (which equals to two 8-ounce cups of coffee) each day, you may want to cut down on your caffeine intake. Keep in mind that caffeine isn’t just found in coffee; it’s also an ingredient in teas, soft drinks, energy drinks, coffee-flavored ice cream and frozen yogurts; chocolates and candy bars.
Emerging research has suggested that high amounts of caffeine can interfere with your ability to get pregnant. Caffeine constricts your blood vessels, which restricts blood flow to your uterus and can make it harder for a fertilized egg to grab hold and imbed. Low to moderate caffeine consumption (less than 300 milligrams a day) probably won’t interfere with your ability to get pregnant, but if you can, you should start cutting down on how much caffeine you drink.
Eliminating caffeine completely out of blue can give you terrible headaches, so you will want ease into it. Gradually decrease the amount of caffeinated drinks that you consume each day until you get accustomed to life without any caffeine at all.
If you don’t exercise on a regular basis, it’s a good time to start now. A healthy body equals a healthy pregnancy. Exercising improves your mood, gives you more energy, helps you sleep better, and decreases your stress level. (New research suggests that stress may play a role in 30 percent of all infertility problems.)
A healthy fitness program doesn’t have to be rigorous. All you need is 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. This can include brisk walking, jogging, weight training, and swimming. You should continue working out after you get pregnant, too. For women with low-risk, normal pregnancies, exercising is safe and recommended. Exercising when pregnant helps you stay within the recommended weight gain for your size; it decreases the severity of your pregnancy symptoms; and it makes labor and delivery much easier.
Overweight women have a more difficult time getting pregnant, and they are at risk for a number of pregnancy complications (such as high blood pressure and gestational diabetes). Losing weight now can decrease the risk of complications, and it may help you get pregnant faster. Obesity has been linked to infertility due to ovulary dysfunction – a condition in which you don’t ovulate consistently, and you may have irregular periods. Shedding a few pounds may help you ovulate more frequently, which will help you get conceive quicker. In fact, just losing 5 or 10 percent of your overall body weight can result in normal ovulation in 60 percent of women with ovulary dysfunction.
When you’re getting your body ready for pregnancy, don’t forget about your oral health. Schedule a routine dental cleaning and take care of any dental problems before you conceive. The hormonal changes that occur in pregnancy can make you more susceptible to cavities and gum problems. Pregnancy gingivitis may also increase your risk of preterm labor and delivery. So, if you take care of periodontal problems before you get pregnant, you can reduce your risk of gum-related problems during pregnancy.
Make sure that you’re mentally prepared for pregnancy and motherhood. If you suffer from depression, you may find that it’s twice as hard for you to conceive. According to a 1995 study in the journal, Psychosomatic Medicine, women with a history of depressive symptoms had twice the rate of infertility. Treatment for depression can, however, improve your chance of getting pregnant. In a 1999 study in the Journal of American Medical Women’s Association, depressed women who underwent treatment had a 60 percent successful pregnancy rate within six months, compared to only 24 percent in the women with untreated depression.
If you have a family history of mental illness, or you have struggled with depression or emotional problems, you should get a mental health check before trying to conceive. Treatment will help you feel better, and it may help improve your chances of conception. In addition, hormonal alterations that occur in pregnancy put you at higher risk for mood swings and emotional unease. If your OB/GYN or midwife knows about your mental health problems ahead of time, he or she will be able to provide better prenatal care.
The final step to prepare your body for pregnancy is to get rid of your birth control pills. You can’t get pregnant if you’re using contraceptives, so it’s time for you to ditch your contraceptive. Using condoms or a diaphragm? Stop using them completely. If you’ve been using hormonal contraception like the pill, you’ll want to finish your current pack to prevent irregular bleeding. Women who stop using the pill are often fertile within the first month after stopping use. It can take some women longer, and others are fertile right away. This is true for women who use a contraceptive patch or a contraceptive ring. Unfortunately, if you’ve been getting Depo-Provera shots, it may take up to one year after your last injection before you start to ovulate.