Gestational age estimation on United States livebirth certificates: a historical overview


  • Conflicts of interest: the authors have declared no conflicts of interest.

Megan L. Wier, MPH, Program on Health Equity and Sustainability, Environmental Health Section, San Francisco Department of Public Health, 1390 Market St., Ste. 910, San Francisco, CA 94102, USA. E-mail:


Gestational age on the birth certificate is the most common source of population-based gestational age data that informs public health policy and practice in the US. Last menstrual period is one of the oldest methods of gestational age estimation and has been on the US Standard Certificate of Live Birth since 1968. The ‘clinical estimate of gestation’, added to the standard certificate in 1989 to address missing or erroneous last menstrual period data, was replaced by the ‘obstetric estimate of gestation’ on the 2003 revision, which specifically precludes neonatal assessments. We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these measures, potential research implications and challenges accompanying the transition to the obstetric estimate.