Gestation – What It Means in Pregnancy

It’s a word that is not typically heard outside of the medical field. Gestation, the period of time from conception to birth, can often be overlooked or forgotten about during pregnancy because of how far along the mother may seem. But what does it mean for you? What are some things to expect? Read on to find out!

What is Gestation?

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The gestation period is defined as the time from fertilization to childbirth. So, if you’re pregnant with a due date of September 4th an average of this would be considered about 40 weeks or 280 days.

The 40-week period works out to be about 9 months and 6 days (or 9.25 months). However, this is never a set number. It can be as short as 37 weeks, or as long as 42 weeks.

Why does this last so long?

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Before birth, an embryo will only grow 14 days at the most every month. This means that it may take 3 months for some organs to fully develop and reach their full capacity. If it was reduced, there would also be a risk of miscarriage due to the sudden decrease in development.

What is the cause of this?

Usually, this is brought on by natural conception between an egg and sperm. It can also happen through artificial means, known as Assisted Reproductive Technology (or ART). The most common form of ART is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Here, sperm is introduced into an egg to build an embryo. The embryo is then placed in the uterus and it begins from there.

Ectopic pregnancy can occur if this were to begin outside of the uterus, most commonly in a fallopian tube. This could potentially be fatal for the mother.

Pregnancy can also be brought on by it if the embryo is transferred to the uterus of another person (Surrogacy). it begins in this case, too.

Can this go wrong?

Yes, it can go wrong, which is why it’s important for you to talk with your doctor about any signs or symptoms you’re having during this. Side effects you’ll likely experience include increased headaches, increased edema (water retention), hypertension and/or preeclampsia, lack of energy or exhaustion, nausea & vomiting.

The most detrimental side effect is preeclampsia, a condition that can develop between the 20th and 24th weeks. Preeclampsia can lead to serious problems for both mother and baby, including maternal stroke and eclampsia. This condition is typically treated with the use of magnesium sulfate.

If you’re experiencing any of these side effects, talk to your doctor right away! Severe headaches could mean a ruptured blood vessel in your brain. Drinking plenty of water can help with edema. If you’re experiencing hypertension or preeclampsia, your blood pressure is likely very high and may be putting the baby at risk.


The gestation period can be very different for each woman. Some women will go into labor before the due date, while others won’t feel anything at all until they are full-term. Being pregnant is not easy and it’s important to take care of yourself during this time so you don’t jeopardize your health or that of your baby!

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