Medical Q&As

Pregnant - at fifteen weeks?

What information can a doctor get from feeling the abdomen of a woman that is fifteen weeks pregnant? Can the doctor tell if an abnormality exists?

When a woman is fifteen weeks pregnant the fundus or upper margin of the womb should be approximately midway between the pubic bone and umbilicus. The womb is just about level with the pubic bone at 12 weeks and at 20 weeks it has risen to the height of the umbilicus, therefore at 15 weeks it is approximately half way between these two points. The fundal height rises at a rate of approximately two fingers breadth every week from the twelfth week onwards. The amount of information you can get by feeling the height of the fundus is limited. You can say if the height of the womb is consistent with the expected date of delivery but you can infer very little beyond that. For example the fundal height could be much higher than you would expect from the motherís dates, which in some cases might raise the suspicion if the mother is expecting twins. Alternatively the height could be a lot smaller than you would have expected in which case you might question if the dates were wrong or possibly the foetus was not developing normally. If an abnormality were suspected on the basis of the fundal height it would not be possible to ascertain the precise nature of the problem by simply feeling the abdomen. In that scenario it would be common practice for the woman to be referred for an ultrasound scan in order to obtain a visual image of the foetus. If the fundal height was normal at fifteen weeks and the other routine checks were also normal it would be reasonable to presume that all was well.