AskDefine | Define gestation

Dictionary Definition



1 the period during which an embryo develops (about 266 days in humans) [syn: gestation period]
2 the state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth when a woman carries a developing fetus in her uterus [syn: pregnancy, maternity]
3 the conception and development of an idea or plan

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. The act of wearing (clothes or ornaments).
  2. The act of carrying young in the womb from conception to delivery; pregnancy.
  3. Exercise in which one is borne or carried, as on horseback, or in a carriage, without the exertion of his own powers; passive exercise.

Extensive Definition

Gestation is the carrying of an embryo or fetus inside a female viviparous animal. Mammals during pregnancy can have one or more gestations at the same time (multiple gestations). The time interval of a gestation plus 2 weeks is called gestation period, and the length of time plus 2 weeks that the offspring have spent developing in the uterus is called gestational age. (The extra 2 weeks is because gestational age is counted starting from the last menstrual period (LMP), rather than actual conception. However this extra 2 weeks is not always added when talking about animals.)


Human pregnancy can be divided into three trimesters, each three months long. The third trimester begins at about 28 weeks.
In humans, birth normally occurs at a gestational age of 37 to 42 weeks. Childbirth occurring before 37 weeks of gestation is considered preterm, childbirth after 25 weeks is usually considered "viable". Preterm and low birth weight babies make up the second leading cause of infant death at about 17%. Preterm births solely consist of 12% of infant deaths with an 84% majority within the 32-36 week period. It is estimated that two million babies worldwide die annually within 24 hours of birth.


In mammals, pregnancy begins when a fertilized zygote implants in the female's uterus and ends once it leaves the uterus.
Below are average and approximate values ordered by gestation period (note for humans gestational age is counted from the LMP, for other animals the counting method varies, so these figures could be 14 days off):


A viviparous animal is an animal employing vivipary: the embryo develops inside the body of the mother, as opposed to outside in an egg (ovipary). The mother then gives live birth. The less developed form of vivipary is called ovoviviparity, which, for instance, occurs in most vipers. The more developed form of vivipary is called placental viviparity; mammals are the best example, but it has also evolved independently in other animals, such as in scorpions, some sharks, and in velvet worms. Viviparous offspring live independently and require an external food supply from birth. Certain lizards also employ this method such as the genera Tiliqua and Corucia. The placenta is attached directly to the mother in these lizards which is called viviparous matrotrophy.
Ovoviviparous animals develop within eggs that remain within the mother's body up until they hatch or are about to hatch. This strategy of birth is known as ovoviviparity. It is similar to vivipary in that the embryo develops within the mother's body. Unlike the embryos of viviparous species, ovoviviparous embryos are nourished by the egg yolk rather than by the mother's body. However, the mother's body does provide gas exchange. Ovoviviparity is employed by many aquatic life forms such as fish and some sharks, reptiles, and invertebrates. The young of ovoviviparous amphibians are sometimes born as larvae, and undergo metamorphosis outside the body of the mother.
The Syngnathidae family of fish has the unique characteristic where females lay their eggs in a brood pouch on the male's chest, and the male incubates the eggs. Fertilization may take place in the pouch or before implantation in the water. Included in Syngnathidae are seahorses, the pipefish, and the weedy and leafy sea dragons. Syngnathidae is the only family in the animal kingdom to which the term "male pregnancy" has been applied.
gestation in Spanish: Gestación
gestation in French: Gestation
gestation in Croatian: Gestacija
gestation in Simple English: Gestation
gestation in Vietnamese: Thai
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