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With Tiny Babies, Tiny Errors Count
Rebecca Goldin, Ph.D, February 21, 2007
MSNBC confuses gestational age with conception.

News of one of the world’s smallest babies leaving the hospital have sparked hope for parents of ‘extremely premature’ babies. These are babies born before 25 weeks of gestation. The gestational age, however, is computed from the first day of the last menstrual period (LMP) before the baby is conceived; it is approximately two weeks before conception actually occurs. A normal gestational period is 37-40 weeks.

The baby in question is named Amelia Taylor, and she was born at 21 weeks and 6 days gestational age. There are very few records of surviving infants born so prematurely.

MSNBC inccorrectly reports this as an age from conception – and bolsters the claim by saying that the date is known because Amelia was conceived by IVF. However, babies born just under 22 weeks from conception are actually just under 24 weeks in gestational age – and a good 45 percent or so of them live.

Amelia was actually born just under 20 weeks from conception. For the purposes of medical lingo, gestational age is used rather than the time from conception because most women don’t know the day they conceived, while the LMP is a lot easier to record.

MSNBC should be more careful in reporting miracles!