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What is fundal height in pregnancy and how to measure it at home?
Congratulations on your pregnancy! This is a time of excitement and anticipation, but it can also bring some anxiety. One of the important aspects of pregnancy care is regular checkups with your healthcare provider. These appointments are crucial for monitoring the health of both you and your baby.
During pregnancy, you will likely have your abdomen measured several times using a tape measure. This measurement, known as fundal height, is taken by placing the tape measure at the top of your uterus (usually near your belly button) and measuring to the top of your pubic bone.
Fundal height is used to assess the size and growth of your uterus, and it can provide important information about your pregnancy. Your healthcare provider will track your fundal height at each appointment to ensure that your baby is growing properly. So don’t be surprised if your doctor asks to measure your belly at each visit!
In this post, we will explore what fundal height is and how it is used to monitor the growth and development of a pregnancy. We will also discuss how you can measure the fundal height at home, as well as its importance in pregnancy care.
What is fundal height?
Fundal height is a measurement of the distance from the top of the uterus (womb) to the pubic bone. This measurement is taken vertically, meaning top to bottom, and is often referred to as the symphysis-fundal height (SFH). The term “symphysis” refers to bones that are joined together, such as those in the pelvis. Fundal height is an important measurement that is used to monitor the growth and development of a pregnancy.
How is fundal height measured?
During a prenatal checkup, your doctor may measure your fundal height to assess the progress of your pregnancy. To do this, you will lie flat on your back on an exam table, similar to getting an ultrasound scan. Using a flexible measuring tape, your doctor will measure the distance from your pelvis to the top of your uterus, which is around where your belly slopes downward after reaching the highest point of your bump.
Around 24 weeks of pregnancy, the fundal height usually corresponds to the number of weeks you have been pregnant. However, it is not an exact measurement and can vary by a few centimetres. Despite this, measuring the fundal height can be useful for determining a few important things about your pregnancy, such as your gestational age and the growth of your baby. It can also help your doctor monitor your weight gain and ensure that your baby is growing consistently.
Measuring the fundal height can be particularly useful in situations where an ultrasound machine is not available or if you are unable to have regular ultrasound appointments. It is a simple and cost-effective way for doctors to check both the mother’s pregnancy health and the baby’s growth.
In fact, researchers have developed an international formula to help better estimate pregnancy weeks and baby size using fundal height measurements, considering that measuring a pregnant person’s stomach may not always be accurate due to variations in belly size.
How to measure fundal height at home?
It is important to keep in mind that even experienced doctors may have difficulty accurately measuring fundal height. Before attempting to measure it at home, ask your doctor to show you where your pubic bone is and how to locate the top of your uterus. To measure fundal height, follow these steps:
- Empty your bladder. A full bladder can impact the accuracy of fundal height measurements by several centimetres.
- Lie down on your back with your legs out in front of you.
- Using a tape measure in centimetres, place the zero marker at the top of the uterus.
- Measure vertically down your stomach and place the other end of the tape measure at the top of your pubic bone.
This is your fundal height measurement.
What should I do if my fundal height measurement is larger than expected?
If your fundal height measurement during week 25 of pregnancy indicates that you are in week 28 or 29, there are a few potential explanations for this:
- It is possible that you became pregnant earlier than originally thought based on your missed period or first ultrasound.
- It could also be that your baby is larger than average, or that your body shape or type causes your stomach to protrude more.
- It is also possible that a full bladder or the need for a bowel movement could make your stomach appear 3 centimetres higher.
If your fundal height measurement is significantly larger than expected, your doctor may re-measure and possibly perform an ultrasound to confirm. Some babies are simply larger or longer than average due to genetics, excess weight gain during pregnancy, or diabetes.
If your fundal height measurement is shorter than expected during pregnancy, it could be due to a variety of factors.
It is possible that your pregnancy began later than originally estimated, or that your baby is smaller than normal.
Your body shape or type may also contribute to a smaller-looking belly. If your baby is smaller than expected or not gaining weight as expected, your doctor may be more concerned.
A lack of weight gain in utero can lead to low birth weight.
Causes of small babies in the womb include genetics, genetic conditions, nutrition issues for the baby or mother, uterine problems, maternal health conditions such as high blood pressure, anemia, infections, diabetes, kidney disease, lung disease, or heart disease, and substance use such as alcohol or drug use.
Fundal height is a measure of the size of the uterus during pregnancy. It is typically measured in centimetres from the top of the uterus to the top of the pubic bone. It is important to accurately measure fundal height to ensure that the pregnancy is progressing as expected and to identify any potential issues.
While trained healthcare professionals are best equipped to accurately measure fundal height, it is possible for expecting mothers to measure it at home with the proper guidance. While measuring your fundal height can give you insights into your baby’s growth, you might also be curious about when you’ll start showing in pregnancy.
If you have any concerns about your pregnancy or would like to learn more about the development of your baby, consider booking a 3D ultrasound with us. Our team of experienced professionals can provide you with a detailed look at your baby.
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