Risks of Incorrect Due Dates for Pregnant Women

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Risks of Incorrect Due Dates for Pregnant Women

Written by Malman Law, reviewed by Steve J. Malman.

Risks of Incorrect Due Dates for Pregnant Women

Pregnancy is an exciting time for expectant mothers and fathers. While the expectant parents must wait nine months to meet their child, they are given a due date to look forward to. This due date gives new parents time to prepare for welcoming a new child into the world. However, determining due dates is not an exact science. For this reason, it is to be expected that newborn children might not be born on their exact due date.

Typically, doctors predicting a due date that ends up being a few days too late or too early does not automatically put a pregnant woman at risk and is of no concern. That said, significant under- or over-estimations of the due date can put a pregnant woman or the child at risk of severe injuries.

If you suffered injuries from an incorrect due date, seek help from a birth injury lawyer in Chicago right away.

How is a Due Date Calculated?

Once a woman discovers she is pregnant, a string of actions begins to take place. There will be many trips to the doctor, sharing news with friends and family, reading different material on what to expect with a newborn, and adjusting to life during pregnancy. During one of the early stage visits during pregnancy, the health care professional will provide an estimated due date of when the child will be born. This due date helps to inform other decisions and progression during the pregnancy.

One of the reasons that it is important that expectant parents and health professionals have an approximate due date is that numerous decisions are based upon that date. It can be expected that the baby’s estimated due date is almost never 100 percent accurate because most women are unaware of the exact date they conceived. Therefore, physicians will often use one of two methods for determining a woman’s due date:

  • Date of the Last Menstrual Period – Every woman is different, but pregnancy is considered to last a total of 40 weeks. Therefore, the starting date of the 40-week period is on the woman’s first day of her last menstrual period. This is an estimate based on the woman’s menstruation cycle, but some women do not have the standard 28-day cycle; therefore, using the first day of the last menstrual period can still put a due date off by a few days, making it too soon or too late.
  • Ultrasound Scans – Ultrasound is an imaging technology common in gynecologist offices. The ultrasound uses sound waves to generate images of the fetus in a woman’s uterus. They are used to monitor the progress of a pregnancy and determine the size, weight, and even sex of the unborn child. Today’s ultrasounds can more accurately determine a woman’s due date. Based on the measurements taken in the first trimester, a physician can make an educated determination of when the woman is due. Ultrasounds are sometimes used to adjust due dates, especially for women with irregular menstrual cycles.

The Risks Associated with Incorrect Due Dates

While not all incorrect due dates result in injuries to the mother or child, there are times in which incorrect estimates can cause serious injury or death, especially if they are far from the original estimated due date. Some risks associated with incorrect due dates that estimate a later birth date include:

  1. The placenta may gradually slow down or stop working altogether – especially once the baby is past the 40-week period. Once the placenta stops working, the baby does not receive nutrients or oxygen as they should, which puts it at serious risk for injury or death.
  2. Infections can develop inside the womb the longer the mother is over the 40-week period, especially if the mother’s water (amniotic fluid) has been slowly leaking.
  3. During labor, unexpected issues may arise, such as a baby that is too large. This will lead to an emergency C-section, which can result in serious injury or even death for the mother or baby.
  4. The risk of stillbirth increases if a baby is three to four weeks past the due date. If the physician has underestimated the woman’s due date, the baby could go too far past due.

Some risks associated with incorrect due dates that estimate an earlier due date center around the danger that the baby could be born too early. A baby is not considered full-term until 39 weeks; however, babies have a better chance of survival and fewer complications if they are at least 37 weeks. When a baby is born before the 37-week mark, there is a higher risk for complications. Some complications associated with an early birth include:

  • Cognitive problems – without the time to fully form, the brain may result in cognitive delays and other serious issues.
  • Temperature control complications – an early birth may result in low body temperatures and difficulty regulating temperature due to lack of body fat and low birth weight.
  • Sensory delays – ​​another result of brain function may be a lack of reflexes that cause difficulty sucking and swallowing. This could lead to challenging feeding difficulties.
  • Breathing problems – a baby who is born prematurely might have trouble breathing because its respiratory system is immature and has not had the proper time to develop fully.

A Need for Specialized Care

In the event that a baby is delivered significantly before or after their estimated due date, many health complications can lead to hospitalization and a need for extended care. An unexpected event such as a long-term stay at the hospital can be challenging for new parents, especially when they are attempting to juggle doctor appointments, work, and other obligations while most likely experiencing a lack of sleep. On top of the overwhelming challenges that come with a newborn child who is dealing with health issues due to an incorrect due date is the stress of determining how to pay for the additional medical bills associated with this care.

Did You or Your Child Suffer Unnecessary Injuries from Incorrect Due Dates? Call a Chicago Birth Injury Lawyer

If a physician grossly underestimates or overestimates a due date and does not take reasonable precautions to accurately determine the baby’s gestational age, they may be liable for any injuries that occur because of it. If you believe that you are in this situation, it can be difficult to know what your options are. It is advisable to speak with an experienced attorney who can walk you through the process.

Call Malman Law today at 888-746-5015 to discuss your potential medical malpractice case, or fill out an online contact form, and an attorney will be in contact with you soon.


Steve Malman

Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.

Years of experience: +30 years
Justia Profile: Steve Malman
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2024

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by President and Founder, Steven J. Malman who has more than 20 years of legal experience as a personal injury attorney.

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