Low birth-weight risk begins early in first trimester, Cornell pregnancy researcher reports
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Reviewing thousands of ultrasound scans at a Scottish hospital, pregnancy researchers found that many cases of extremely premature delivery and poor fetal growth are likely to be determined as early as the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
The finding may indicate that waiting until after conception to prepare for motherhood may be waiting too long.
Results of the ultrasound survey, which measured the fetal size of babies born at the Queen Mother's Hospital in Glasgow over a 10-year period, are being reported tomorrow (Dec. 17, 1998) in the "New England Journal of Medicine" by Gordon C.S. Smith, M.D., of the Laboratory for Pregnancy and Newborn Research in Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine, together with Malcolm F.S. Smith, Margaret B. McNay and John E.E. Fleming, all of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Glasgow. The study was supported, in part, by the Wellcome Trust.
"We used to think that variations in birth weight were determined in the second half of pregnancy. Now it appears that conditions quite early in gestation -- or perhaps even before conception -- are contributing to low birth weight and the risk of extremely premature birth," says Cornell's Smith.
"We don't yet have enough information to recommend first-trimester ultrasound measurement as a diagnostic tool for extremely premature birth or fetal-growth restriction," he cautions. "Nevertheless, this finding could help explain why programs of nutritional supplementation for expectant mothers deemed to be at high risk of a low birth-weight baby typically only increase the baby's weight by 2 or 3 ounces." Poor fetal growth might be determined before the woman knows she is pregnant or begins to receive prenatal care, he says.
The researchers began with the medical records for more than 31,000 pregnancies
at the Glasgow hospita
Contact: Roger Segelken
Cornell University News Service