The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 07-05-2005, 01:52 PM
Interrobang!? Interrobang!? is offline
Join Date: Jan 2000
Longest. Pregnancy. Ever. or, how long was the longest human pregnancy?

I'm well aware, what with a pregnant wife and related readings, that the "typical" human pregnancy lasts 40 weeks (38 weeks from fertilization, but I'll use the more common 40 weeks from onset of last period counting method). Babies born anywhere between 37 weeks and 42 weeks are considered "on time."

Babies born later than 42 weeks are considered postmature. Most American women are induced after that point.

I've found references to women giving birth at "46 weeks or even later." I've heard secondhand accounts (most recently in Jeannette Walls' memoir The Glass Castle) of pregnancies that have gone 11 or 12 months, which seems unlikely to me, but who knows?

So what's the record for the longest human pregnancy?
Reply With Quote
Old 07-05-2005, 03:04 PM
picunurse picunurse is offline
Join Date: Mar 2003
After about 42 weeks the placenta begins to decompose. The chances of a still birth are very high.
Here and here are medical articles, discussing post term risks.
So, I didn't answer your question, but chances are, its not far out of the norm.
Reports of exceedingly long gestation can be attributed to, mis-calculation, an early miscarriage, with re-empregnation, or lies.
Reply With Quote
Old 07-05-2005, 03:16 PM
Interrobang!? Interrobang!? is offline
Join Date: Jan 2000
I finally re-found a website I turned up while googling about this on Friday -- the Ten Month Mama Page includes references to successful 47- and 48-week pregnancies. Given the tenor of the site, though, I'm not sure how much credence I'd give those claims.

picunurse, I know the hazards of going beyond 42 weeks -- I really doubt the stories of 11- or 12-month pregnancies I've heard, because, well, they're just stories I heard. But while 47 or 48 weeks strikes me as highly improbable, it doesn't strike me as impossible -- which is why I'm curious. I mean, someone has to have had the longest pregnancy, even if it's only 44 weeks or something.
Reply With Quote
Old 07-05-2005, 07:05 PM
picunurse picunurse is offline
Join Date: Mar 2003
I'm just not sure if its a statistic that's been kept. Pregnancy length has, until recently, been a best educated guess, since older tests weren't acurate before 12 weeks.
The early term tests have only been around for a few years. They will become positive 14 days after implantation. But, there's still no way to tell how much more than 14 days have gone since implantation.
As I said eariler, Those 48 weekers were very possibly unrecognized early miscarriages with later re-fertilization.
Say, the woman does an early term test. Its positive. A month, or more goes by, she has some spotting, but it stops. The signs wouldn't be dramatic, and those that are apparent, don't disappear over night. Because she assumes she is pregnant, she continues to have unprotected sex, and is re-fertilized.
The doctor takes the word of the mom as to when her last period was, then calculates the due date. No real science.
If you look at the animal model, all placental mammals have very circumscribed gestational periods, with afew exceptions, of course. Some species will re- absorb a gamete if conditions are not acceptable.
Marsupials, on the other hand, function a little differently, in that the development can slow, until conditions are optimal. They are, I believe, the only mammals with variable lengths of gestation.
I've cared for a few post term infants. The most post term was 43 weeks. The baby's skin was cracked, with some areas of necrosis. He had fairly severe brain injury.
The OB told us that the placenta was only about 1/4 viable, the rest was black.
Sorry I can't help.
Reply With Quote
Old 07-06-2005, 12:50 AM
Napier Napier is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Mid Atlantic, USA
Posts: 8,441
Mrs. Napier carried her first for 46 weeks from the last period. She was scheduled for an induction but broke her water the nigh before laughing at a Laugh-In episode.
Reply With Quote
Old 07-06-2005, 01:04 AM
Johanna Johanna is online now
Charter Member
Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: Altered States of America
Posts: 11,955
Chinese legend tells how Laozi (or Lao-tse), author of the Dao De Jing (or Tao Teh Ching), got his name.

His mother was pregnant with him for 60 years. When he was born he had white hair and a long beard. He was called Laozi, which means 'Old Child'.

Ha ha, did someone just make up that story to explain the name? Actually in Chinese the word zi, basically meaning 'child', has another sense: 'sage of ancient times'. If that's so, Laozi is just a description of someone whose real name isn't recorded. Or else his name "Old Child" came first, and the sense of 'ancient sage' is secondary to that. I don't know.
Reply With Quote
Old 07-06-2005, 04:32 PM
dotchan dotchan is offline
Join Date: Mar 2004
(hijack) Chinese mythology seems pretty big on delayed births, ne? IIRC, Ne Zhe (Nataku) spent 3 1/2 years in the womb, and then was born as a giant egg-like object.
Shameless Self Promotion
Reply With Quote
Old 07-06-2005, 08:47 PM
lizardling lizardling is offline
Join Date: Dec 2004
I remember a mention in the Guinness Book when I was wee. Very wee. And it STILL gives me nightmares, nearly 20 years later. I'm getting faint just thinking about it, but to give you guys a hint - it was a very non-viable pregnancy which lasted for years.

Since the OP doesn't seem to have specified that the result be a live baby, I figure that qualifies.

*going off to scrub brain*
Reply With Quote
Old 07-07-2005, 01:56 AM
Interrobang!? Interrobang!? is offline
Join Date: Jan 2000
I probably should've specified, but I was definitely thinking of a successful pregnancy.
Reply With Quote
Old 07-07-2005, 08:08 AM
robinc308 robinc308 is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
I have a friend who, when pregnant with one of her kids (number 2, I think, maybe number 3), at 6 months, the baby just stopped developing. 5 months later, he resumed, and was born, perfectly normal and healthy at 14 months gestation. He's now in his late 30s. Her next baby was also a long pregnancy - 11 or 12 months I think, again, her daughter is a perfectly normal adult.

As she cheerfully admits now, if it had happened in this day and age (rather than almost 40 years ago), it would never have been allowed to go on that long.

And just so you know - it's not a friend of a friend or anything - I know this woman, and I know 2 of her kids. She was, in fact, my Sunday school teacher when I was little.
Reply With Quote
Old 07-07-2005, 08:12 AM
Shirley Ujest Shirley Ujest is offline
Join Date: May 1999
Couldn't your friend, Robin, have miscarried and been refertilized? It's all so strange.
Reply With Quote
Old 07-07-2005, 08:36 AM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is offline
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 35,549
Originally Posted by dotchan
(hijack) Chinese mythology seems pretty big on delayed births, ne? IIRC, Ne Zhe (Nataku) spent 3 1/2 years in the womb, and then was born as a giant egg-like object.
I thought that was Jonathan Winters.
Reply With Quote


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 08:00 AM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2015, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to:

Send comments about this website to:

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to:

Copyright 2015 Sun-Times Media, LLC.