1. Your Due Date

A due date is important in pregnancy because it helps your healthcare provider determine when to perform certain tests or procedures. It also helps estimate baby’s growth and may indicate whether you are overdue or in premature labor.

Most women don’t know the exact date their baby was conceived, but they usually know the day their last menstrual period began. (Last menstrual period may be abbreviated LMP.) Because ovulation occurs about the middle of your cycle, or about 2 weeks before the beginning of the next period, a healthcare provider uses the first day of the last period and adds 2 weeks as an estimate of when conception occurred. By doing this, he or she can set a due date.

You can also calculate when your baby is due another way. Begin with the date of the first day of your last menstrual period; add 7 days and count back 3 months. This gives you the approximate date of delivery. For example, if your last period began on January 20, your estimated due date is October 27.

Gestational age (menstrual age) is yet another way to date a pregnancy. If your healthcare provider says you’re 12 weeks pregnant, he or she is referring to gestational age. Your last menstrual period began 12 weeks ago, but you actually conceived 10 weeks ago.

Fertilization age (ovulatory age) can also be used to date your pregnancy. It is 2 weeks shorter than gestational age and dates from the actual day of conception. This is the age of the fetus. In the case of 12 weeks pregnant, the fetus is actually 10 weeks old.

Your healthcare provider may also refer to your pregnancy by trimesters. Trimesters divide pregnancy into three stages, each about 13 weeks long. This division helps organize stages of development.

Time-Saving, Energy-Saving Tip

Do you like marinated meat but forget to put it in the marinade until it’s too late? Try this—cut up raw meat for cooking. Place it in a large plastic freezer bag. Add marinade to the meat, seal the bag and put it in the freezer. When you pull the meat out of the freezer, it marinates while it thaws!

2. Childbirth-Education Classes

Childbirth-education classes can help you and your partner prepare for the birth of your baby. If a couple is prepared for labor and delivery, the experience is usually more relaxed, even enjoyable. Childbirth-education classes for couples in their 30s and 40s may be available in your area to meet your specific needs.

These classes are very popular. In fact, studies show that nearly 90% of all first-time expectant parents take some type of childbirth-education class.

3. How Classes Can Help You and Your Partner

Classes can help prepare you and your partner for labor and delivery. Studies have shown women who take childbirth-education classes need less medication, have fewer forceps or vacuum-extractor deliveries and feel more positive about the birth than women who do not take classes.

Classes cover many aspects of labor and delivery, including vaginal birth, Cesarean delivery, hospital procedures, ways to deal with the discomfort and pain of labor and delivery, various pain-relief methods and the postpartum or recovery period. Having this information available beforehand can make you feel more confident and prepared to cope with the birth experience.

4. What to Look for in a Childbirth-Education Class

Every class has a different style. There are many different questions to ask to help you evaluate whether a particular class is right for you. Each class should cover the following.

What are the different childbirth methods?

What is “natural childbirth”?

What is a Cesarean delivery?

What pain-relief methods are available?

What you need to know (and practice) for the childbirth method you choose.

Will you need an episiotomy?

Will you need an enema?

When is a fetal monitor necessary?

What’s going to happen when you reach the hospital?

Is an epidural or some other type of anesthesia right for you?

In addition, consider the following before choosing a childbirth-education class for you and your partner or labor coach.

Class was recommended by your healthcare provider.

Class uses a philosophy shared by your healthcare provider and childbirth team.

Class begins when you need it, in the seventh month of your pregnancy (earlier if you are having more than one baby).

Class size is small, no more than 10 couples.

Graduates are enthusiastic. (Locate people and ask about the class.)

Class outline is informative and interesting.

Class includes the time and opportunity to ask questions, practice techniques and talk to parents who have recently given birth.

Class focuses on the specific needs of older pregnant couples.

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