Duration Of Pregnancy

The natural period of gestation is considered as forty weeks, ten lunar

months, or 280 days. A medical witness would have to admit the

possibility of gestation being prolonged to 300 days, and if this time

were not very materially exceeded it would be well to give the woman

the benefit of the doubt. It may be mentioned that 300 days is the

extreme limit fixed by the French and Scottish law. No fixed period is

assigned in English or American law to the duration of pregnancy, though

it is allowed that utero-gestation may be greatly prolonged. In a recent

case decided, the Lord Chancellor accepted a case where it was alleged

pregnancy had extended to 331 days. A child only five months old may

live, for a short time at all events. There is considerable difficulty

in many cases in fixing the date of conception. The data from which it

is calculated are the following: (1) Peculiar sensations attending

conception, which are not sufficiently defined to be recognized by

those conceiving for the first time. (2) Cessation of the catamenia.

Other causes may, however, cause this; and, on the other hand, a woman

may menstruate during the whole period of her pregnancy. This datum also

gives a variable period, and may involve an error of several days or a

month, for the menses may be arrested by cold, etc., at one monthly

period, and the woman become pregnant before the next. (3) The period

of quickening. This, when perceived (which is not always the case),

also occurs at variable periods from the tenth to the twenty-sixth week.

(4) A single coitus. This does not, however, correspond to the time of

fertilization. Several days may elapse before the spermatozoa meet with

an ovum and fertilize it.

In Scotland a child born six months after marriage is legitimate, which

is allowing an ample margin.

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