Gestational age

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Definition

Gestation is the period of time between conception and birth. During this time, the baby grows and develops inside the mother's womb.

Gestational age is the common term used during pregnancy to describe how far along the pregnancy is. It is measured in weeks, from the first day of the woman's last menstrual cycle to the current date. A normal pregnancy can range from 38 to 42 weeks.

Infants born before 37 weeks are considered premature. Infants born after 42 weeks are considered postmature.

Alternative Names

Fetal age - gestational age; Gestation; Neonatal gestational age; Newborn gestational age

Information

Gestational age can be determined before or after birth.

  • Before birth, your health care provider will use ultrasound to measure the size of the baby's head, abdomen, and thigh bone. This provides a view on how well the baby is growing in the womb.
  • After birth, gestational age can be measured by looking at the baby.Weight, length, head circumference, vital signs, reflexes, muscle tone, posture, and the condition of the skin and hair.

If the baby's gestational age findings after birth match the calendar age, the baby is said to be appropriate for gestational age (AGA). AGA babies have lower rates of problems and death than babies that are small or large for their gestational age.

The weight for full-term infants that are born AGA will most often be between 2,500 grams (about 5.5 lbs) and 4,000 grams (about 8.75 lbs).

References

Carlo WA. The newborn infant. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 94.

Smith J. Initial evaluation. In: Gleason CA, Devaskar SU, eds. Avery's Diseases of the Newborn. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 25.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 11/19/2015
  • Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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