It’s a question you’ll hear over and over until you’re holding a baby in your arms: “When are you due?” Everyone wants to know that magic date, and you’re probably more than a little curious about how far along you are, too. Your due date may become a beacon (my belly will stop growing in three more weeks, right?) or a deadline (I better paint the nursery ASAP), but it’s important to remember that your “due date” will only ever be an estimate of the week you’ll give birth (the vast majority of women deliver between weeks 37 and 41).
That said, there’s one big reason why an accurate estimate is important: in case of complications. “If a woman goes into labour early, then we really want to know how far along she is, as best as we can tell,” says Carol Scurfield, medical director of the Women’s Health Clinic in Winnipeg. "A week can make a big difference as far as the health of the baby is concerned.”
By far, the most common and accurate way to figure out your estimated due date is to take the start date of your last normal period and add 280 days (40 weeks), which is the typical length of a pregnancy. “Make sure that the period you’re tracking was the same number of days as usual and the same amount of discomfort, meaning that it felt like a normal period,” says Scurfield. “Sometimes women bleed after they’re pregnant, but that bleeding is different from a period.”
The formula for calculating how far along you are (or number of weeks pregnant) is simply the number of days since the first day of your last menstrual period (LMP) divided by seven:
Days since start of LMP ÷ 7 = # of weeks pregnant
Wondering how to calculate your number of months pregnant?
Days since start of LMP ÷ 30 = # of months pregnantDoucefleur/ Getty Images
“Before we understood the physiology of ovulation—and that women don’t ovulate until a couple of weeks after their period, so they really can’t get pregnant until that time—the only thing that primitive physicians and midwives knew was that from the first day of the last period, it was about 280 days before a woman gave birth,” says Scurfield.
“All of the research and medical literature have been based on that formula being used.”Milos Dimic/ Getty Images
If you have a standard 28-day period, you will likely ovulate around day 14 and are most fertile around days 12, 13 and 14—when you had sex (or underwent a fertility treatment) to conceive. It takes about nine days after ovulation for implantation to occur, which brings you to around day 23. It takes a few days for your pregnancy hormone levels to be detectable by a pregnancy test, bringing you to around day 28.peakSTOCK/ Getty Images
How far along you are in your pregnancy isn’t calculated from conception or implantation but from the first day of your last normal period. If you had your period four weeks ago, then ovulated and had sex two weeks ago to become pregnant, you’re currently four weeks pregnant.
Ready to take a home pregnancy test? These pregnancy test strips work out less than .50 cents each.
If you haven’t been keeping track of your periods or have extremely irregular periods, you have to make your best guess for the first day of your last period and go for a dating ultrasound as early as six to seven weeks to get a better idea of your number of weeks pregnant.Prostock-Studio/ Getty Images
A dating ultrasound, which measures the length of the fetus from crown to rump, is an accurate way to estimate your due date or how far along you are if completed within the first trimester (the first 13 weeks of pregnancy). “Most women have a pretty good idea of when their last period was, within a day or two,” says Scurfield.skynesher/ Getty Images
"If a woman has no idea, you’ll want to try to get her as early as you can. Once you get past 13 weeks, the variability of the growth is such that an ultrasound can be off by a week or so.”
Nope! You can rely on the due date suggested by your last menstrual period, but your healthcare provider may schedule one anyway. “Your doctor may do it for other reasons, but for figuring out dates, it’s really not necessary if she isn’t concerned and there’s nothing odd happening,” says Scurfield.Oscar Wong/ Getty Images
All pregnancy tests are designed to detect the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in urine, but some pricier tests offer a “weeks indicator” that promises to tell how far along you are. Unfortunately, these tests are pretty vague, stating only one to two weeks, two to three weeks or three-plus weeks pregnant.Rawpixel/ Getty Images
In addition, the tests measure from implantation, not from your LMP. A test might say that you’re one to two weeks pregnant but you’re actually four weeks pregnant, according to standard pregnancy calculations.
Historically, the first heartbeat and first movement are used to get a sense of how far along you are or the age of the fetus, but these forms of measurement are now considered outdated. “We don’t use them anymore because they’re so inaccurate,” says Scurfield. “They’ll give you a rough idea, within weeks, but nothing precise.”Ridofranz/ Getty Images
Just four percent. “The due date is an estimate,” says Scurfield. “There are all sorts of factors that go into when a woman delivers. It may have to do with the size of the fetus or the health of the mother. Some women will have one baby early and the next baby late. It’s nice to be able to predict and plan, but babies come when they’re ready.”Cavan Images/ Getty Images
Start tracking your periods (including start date, end date and symptoms) before you get pregnant so that you can easily tell how far along you are. You can use a calendar or period tracker app, such as Period Calendar, Flo and Clue, all of which are free on iPhone and Android.
Then, if you get pregnant—whether it’s planned or a surprise—you’ll know the start of your last period and can accurately assess how far along you are. At that point, you can sign up for Today’s Parent’s free week-by-week pregnancy newsletter to learn about your baby’s development, how you’ll be feeling and what to expect.
Use our newsletters to help track the size of your baby, anticipate pregnancy symptoms and plan for doctor’s appointments and other key dates (like finding out the sex of your baby if you wish to, usually around 18 to 20 weeks).Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/ Getty Images
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