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What is Fetal Age?

By Kasey James
Updated: May 17, 2024

Fetal age is the actual age of the fetus in the mother's womb from the time of conception onward. It allows medical doctors to determine if the fetus is developing properly and what the baby's due date is. The age of the fetus helps to establish when and what type of prenatal care is needed for the mother and the baby.

There are a few ways to find out the age. If the mother knows the conception date, then it is calculated from that day. It can also be determined by using an ultrasound. The ultrasound will allow the doctor to look at the size of the fetus, which will help to verify the age. The first ultrasound is usually done early in the pregnancy.

There is a difference between fetal age and gestational age. Gestational age is the time from the mother's last menstrual period. The fetal age is generally two weeks behind the gestational age. This is because conception usually occurs two weeks after the last menstrual period.

Prenatal care is considered important for the mother and the fetus. Establishing the exact or estimated age of the fetus helps the doctors know when to set up pregnancy ultrasounds and run certain medical tests. It also helps the mother to know how much weight gain there should be throughout the pregnancy.

The age of the fetus is important to know when it comes to fetal growth and development. The age helps the doctor to determine if the fetus is growing at the correct rate and if internal organs are forming at the right time. Fetal growth is measured at least once a month during pregnancy and should match up to the fetal age. The doctor will have a fetal growth chart to determine proper measurements.

If the fetus has a medical condition, it can sometimes be seen on the fetal ultrasound. Some medical conditions have to be treated before the baby is born—the fetal age is very helpful in this situation. It allows the doctors to know if the fetus is old enough to accept certain medical treatments or surgeries in the womb. In some cases, a baby needs to be delivered earlier than the actual due date. The medical staff in the delivery room will know what to expect based on the age of the fetus.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Logicfest — On Aug 21, 2014

@Markerrag -- True, but the fetal age rarely matters to those who are against abortion. As far as a lot of them are concerned, life begins at conception and that is all there is to it.

Whether that view is right or wrong has been, of course, a matter hotly debated by lawmakers and researchers alike.

By Markerrag — On Aug 20, 2014

An accurate fetal age has also been very important in the seemingly ongoing debate over abortion. Should abortion be legal in the first trimester? Second trimester? Third trimester? Not at all? A lot of arguments have been advanced and a lot of laws have been written embracing those concepts.

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