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. However, determining due dates is not an exact science. While a few days too late or too early do not automatically put a pregnant woman at risk, gross under- or over-estimations of the due date can.
How is a Due Date Calculated?
It is important that expectant parents and health professionals have an approximate due date, since numerous decisions are based upon that date. The baby’s estimated due date is never 100 percent accurate because most women are unaware of the exact date they conceived. Therefore, physicians must use one of two methods for determining a woman’s due date:
- Date of the Last Menstrual Period – Every woman is different, but a 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 a few days too soon or too late.
- Ultrasound Scans – 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 the incorrect estimates can cause serious injury or death. Some risks associated with incorrect due dates include:
- The placenta may gradually slow down or stop working altogether – especially once the baby is past their 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.
- 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.
- 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 mother or baby.
- The risk for stillborn 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.
- 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.
Did You or Your Child Suffer Unnecessary Injuries from Incorrect Due Dates?
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. Call Malman Law today at 888-625-6265 to discuss your potential medical malpractice case, or fill out an online contact form and an attorney will be in contact with you soon.