Congrats! You’re pregnant and you may have attended several prenatal appointments by this time. Each visit has been basically the same, you may have to provide a urine sample each time, chat with your healthcare provider about your concerns, and you get to listen to your little one’s heartbeat. But as you advance in pregnancy, usually around 24 weeks or so, your provider will add something to your typical routine. She will begin to take your fundal measurement. “Wait, what’s a fundal measurement?” you may ask. It’s the measurement of your fundus of course. “What’s a fundus?” Great question!
By definition, a fundus is a “part of a hollow organ”. In the case of pregnancy, the fundus in question is your uterus. So, “measuring your fundal height,” what you may hear your provider call it, is simply just measuring the expansion of your uterus as your pregnancy progresses. This measurement doesn’t occur until around 24 weeks because in order to measure one’s uterine growth, or fundal height, the uterus has to be large enough to be palpated by your provider. It must be large enough to protrude above the pubic bone.
Thankfully, the method used to measure your growing uterus is a painless and non-invasive process that involves your provider using a basic tape measure to determine the size of your uterus. She will begin by locating your pubic bone with her fingertips, where she will place the tip of the tape measure, and then she will run the tape measure up to the point at which she can feel the top of your uterus. Coincidentally, your fundal height often matches your gestational week within about 2cm, give or take. In other words, if your fundal height is 28cm, you are likely about 28 weeks pregnant. This measurement, in a healthy pregnancy, will increase at each visit. It will follow this trend at least until the very last few weeks where your baby may begin to burrow down further into your pelvis, in preparation for birth. At that point, your fundal measurement may actually decrease a bit. This would cause no concern.
The fundal measurement allows your provider to know several things:
- how far along you are in pregnancy, which will help to verify your estimated due date
- it assists in tracking your weight gain along with how your baby is growing
- it helps determine how large your baby may be
- it provides an idea of how much amniotic fluid is in your uterus
Next time you head in to your appointment, don’t be overly concerned if your fundal height doesn’t line up exactly with the parameters listed above. Each pregnancy is different and each individual is unique. Your provider will be sure to tell you if there is a reason to be concerned. The fundal height measurement is generally a very reassuring and concrete way for you to witness your baby’s growth and your own bodily-changes throughout your pregnancy.
Your fundal height is an important part of the prenatal care puzzle. While variation from the “norm” doesn’t necessarily indicate anything is wrong, it does allow your provider to ask the right questions, order the right tests, and further help her determine how best to keep you and your baby healthy and safe during your pregnancy. Enjoy watching that bump grow! Happy pregnancy.