Gestational age is the number of weeks and days a fetus has developed since the beginning of the pregnancy, or gestation. A pregnancy is formally considered as beginning on the first day of the mother's last menstrual period (LMP).
An infant born before 37 completed weeks' gestation is considered premature. A premature infant is often referred to in terms of gestational age (a "30-weeker"), which implies a particular point of development at birth. After a premature infant is born, the gestational age is also referred to as the infant's postconceptional age. This figure is useful for estimating an infant's growth and development until some time around the due date (40 weeks).
Gestational age is also estimated by using ultrasound measurements of the fetus combined with the dates of first fetal heart tones and other developmental milestones. After the infant is born, there are a variety of characteristics that can be used to estimate the gestational age.
It is possible for gestational age to be inaccurate by up to 2 weeks, even with an accurate LMP date confirmed by other tests.
Medical Review:Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology