"i can guess the month ... But beyond that, i can't tell" an exploratory qualitative study of health care provider perspectives on gestational age estimation in Rajasthan, India

K. Scott, S. Gupta, E. Williams, M. Arthur, U. V. Somayajulu, L. Noguchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Accurately estimating gestational age is essential to the provision of time-sensitive maternal and neonatal interventions, including lifesaving measures for imminent preterm birth and trimester-specific health messaging. Methods: We explored healthcare provider perspectives on gestational age estimation in the state of Rajasthan, India, including the methods they use (last menstrual period [LMP] dating, ultrasound, or fundal height measurement); barriers to making accurate estimates; how gestational age estimates are documented and used for clinical decision-making; and what could help improve the accuracy and use of these estimates. We interviewed 20 frontline healthcare providers and 10 key informants. Thematic network analysis guided our coding and synthesis of findings. Results: Health care providers reported that they determined gestational age using some combination of LMP, fundal height, and ultrasound. Their description of their practices showed a lack of standard protocol, varying levels of confidence in their capacity to make accurate estimates, and differing strategies for managing inconsistencies between estimates derived from different methods. Many frontline healthcare providers valued gestational age estimation more to help women prepare for childbirth than as a tool for clinical decision making. Feedback on accuracy was rare. The providers sampled could not offer ultrasound directly, and instead could only refer women to ultrasound at higher level facilities, and usually only in the second or third trimesters because of late antenatal care-seeking. Low recall among pregnant women limited the accuracy of LMP. Fundal height was heavily relied upon, despite its lack of precision. Conclusion: The accuracy of gestational age estimates is influenced by factors at four levels: 1. health system (protocols to guide frontline workers, interventions that make use of gestational age, work environment, and equipment); 2. healthcare provider (technical understanding of and capacity to apply the gestational age estimation methods, communication and rapport with clients, and value assessment of gestational age); 3. client (time of first antenatal care, migration status, language, education, cognitive approach to recalling dates, and experience with biomedical services); and, 4. the inherent limitations and ease of application of the methods themselves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number529
JournalBMC pregnancy and childbirth
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 11 2020


  • Antenatal care
  • Client-provider relationships
  • Gestational age estimation
  • India
  • Neonatal health
  • Preterm birth
  • Qualitative
  • Quality of care
  • Ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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