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
n 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.