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40 Weeks Is NOT Full Term

J Fun Fact Friday Leave a Comment

Fun Fact Friday has reached full term…. Not quite! This is Fun fact Friday’s 40th week, but to say “full term” is inaccurate.

Due dates and full term are not the same. Full term to most non medical people means you’ve reached your due date. Full term to most medical people indicates something less defined, a period of time, and that varies by country.

If you ask your average Jo, Jim, Julie or Jane how long a human pregnancy lasts, most would say 9 months or 40 weeks. 40 weeks is technically correct – in the UK at least. Without going into the different methods that help you calculate dates, which is a whole different can of worms, it would be fairer to say that full term (or how your due date is calculated) differs depending upon which country you live in. How they define full term varies:

UK: 40 weeks

France: 41 weeks

Kenya: up to 43 weeks

However, if you are from the UK, a look on NHS choice states you are full term at 37 weeks. Then, if you take a quick perusal on the web, it will bring up the following US definitions of term:

  • Early term: Your baby is born between 37 weeks, 0 days and 38 weeks, 6 days.
  • Full term: Your baby is born between 39 weeks, 0 days and 40 weeks, 6 days.
  • Late term: Your baby is born between 41 weeks, 0 days and 41 weeks, 6 days.
  • Post term: Your baby is born after 42 weeks, 0 days.

As you can see, there appears to be no ‘catch all’ definition and the WHO’s definition is probably the most appropriate:

The World Health Organisation considers full term to be anywhere between 37 weeks and 42 weeks for a normal pregnancy.

That’s more than a months discrepancy!

With such a large timespan, why are we given due dates, or more precisely “estimated due dates”, when a period of time is clearly more appropriate? Probably because there is a need for it. How many people want some ambiguous time span of when to expect their baby? It’s simply a matter of demand; demand for a date. A date people can organise and arrange themselves around, a date to look forward to, a date to set their sights upon. But don’t be fooled – they don’t really know, they just kinda made it up to appease you!

Did you know only 4% of babies are born on their “due date”? Lucky guesses or well-calculated? I’ll let you decide.

The one thing is for sure – if you are 37 weeks pregnant, you should expect your baby within the next 5 weeks!

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