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      Factors associated with ultrasound-aided detection of suboptimal fetal growth in a malaria-endemic area in Papua New Guinea

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          Fetal growth restriction (FGR) is associated with increased infant mortality rates and ill-health in adulthood. Evaluation of fetal growth requires ultrasound. As a result, ultrasound-assisted evaluations of causes of FGR in malaria-endemic developing countries are rare. We aimed to determine factors associated with indicators of abnormal fetal growth in rural lowland Papua New Guinea (PNG).


          Weights and growth of 671 ultrasound-dated singleton pregnancies (<25 gestational weeks) were prospectively monitored using estimated fetal weights and birthweights. Maternal nutritional status and haemoglobin levels were assessed at enrolment, and participants were screened for malaria on several occasions. FGR was suspected upon detection of an estimated fetal weight or birthweight <10 th centile (small-for-gestational age) and/or low fetal weight gain, defined as a change in weight z-score in the first quartile. Factors associated with fetal weight and fetal weight gain were additionally assessed by evaluating differences in weight z-scores and change in weight z-scores. Log-binomial and linear mixed effect models were used to determine factors associated with indicators of FGR.


          SGA and low weight gain were detected in 48.3% and 37.0% of pregnancies, respectively. Of participants, 13.8%, 21.2%, and 22.8% had a low mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC, <22 cms), short stature (<150 cms) and anaemia (haemoglobin <90 g/L) at first antenatal visit. 24.0% (161/671) of women had at least one malaria infection detected in peripheral blood. A low MUAC (adjusted risk ratio [aRR] 1.51, 95% CI 1.29, 1.76, P < 0.001), short stature (aRR 1.27, 95% CI 1.04, 1.55, P = 0.009), and anaemia (aRR 1.27, 95% CI 1.06, 1.51, P = 0.009) were associated with SGA, and a low body mass index was associated with low fetal weight gain (aRR 2.10, 95% CI 1.62, 2.71, P < 0.001). Additionally, recent receipt of intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy was associated with increased weight z-scores, and anaemia with reduced change in weight z-scores. Malaria infection was associated with SGA on crude but not adjusted analyses (aRR 1.13, 95% CI 0.95, 1.34, P = 0.172).


          Macronutrient undernutrition and anaemia increased the risk of FGR. Antenatal nutritional interventions and malaria prevention could improve fetal growth in PNG.

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          Most cited references 24

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          Maternal and child undernutrition and overweight in low-income and middle-income countries.

          Maternal and child malnutrition in low-income and middle-income countries encompasses both undernutrition and a growing problem with overweight and obesity. Low body-mass index, indicative of maternal undernutrition, has declined somewhat in the past two decades but continues to be prevalent in Asia and Africa. Prevalence of maternal overweight has had a steady increase since 1980 and exceeds that of underweight in all regions. Prevalence of stunting of linear growth of children younger than 5 years has decreased during the past two decades, but is higher in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa than elsewhere and globally affected at least 165 million children in 2011; wasting affected at least 52 million children. Deficiencies of vitamin A and zinc result in deaths; deficiencies of iodine and iron, together with stunting, can contribute to children not reaching their developmental potential. Maternal undernutrition contributes to fetal growth restriction, which increases the risk of neonatal deaths and, for survivors, of stunting by 2 years of age. Suboptimum breastfeeding results in an increased risk for mortality in the first 2 years of life. We estimate that undernutrition in the aggregate--including fetal growth restriction, stunting, wasting, and deficiencies of vitamin A and zinc along with suboptimum breastfeeding--is a cause of 3·1 million child deaths annually or 45% of all child deaths in 2011. Maternal overweight and obesity result in increased maternal morbidity and infant mortality. Childhood overweight is becoming an increasingly important contributor to adult obesity, diabetes, and non-communicable diseases. The high present and future disease burden caused by malnutrition in women of reproductive age, pregnancy, and children in the first 2 years of life should lead to interventions focused on these groups. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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            Malaria in pregnancy: pathogenesis and immunity.

            Understanding of the biological basis for susceptibility to malaria in pregnancy was recently advanced by the discovery that erythrocytes infected with Plasmodium falciparum accumulate in the placenta through adhesion to molecules such as chondroitin sulphate A. Antibody recognition of placental infected erythrocytes is dependent on sex and gravidity, and could protect from malaria complications. Moreover, a conserved parasite gene-var2csa-has been associated with placental malaria, suggesting that its product might be an appropriate vaccine candidate. By contrast, our understanding of placental immunopathology and how this contributes to anaemia and low birthweight remains restricted, although inflammatory cytokines produced by T cells, macrophages, and other cells are clearly important. Studies that unravel the role of host response to malaria in pathology and protection in the placenta, and that dissect the relation between timing of infection and outcome, could allow improved targeting of preventive treatments and development of a vaccine for use in pregnant women.
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              Fetal nutrition and cardiovascular disease in adult life.

              Babies who are small at birth or during infancy have increased rates of cardiovascular disease and non-insulin-dependent diabetes as adults. Some of these babies have low birthweights, some are small in relation to the size of their placentas, some are thin at birth, and some are short at birth and fail to gain weight in infancy. This paper shows how fetal undernutrition at different stages of gestation can be linked to these patterns of early growth. The fetuses' adaptations to undernutrition are associated with changes in the concentrations of fetal and placental hormones. Persisting changes in the levels of hormone secretion, and in the sensitivity of tissues to them, may link fetal undernutrition with abnormal structure, function, and disease in adult life.

                Author and article information

                BMC Pregnancy Childbirth
                BMC Pregnancy Childbirth
                BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
                BioMed Central (London )
                3 April 2015
                3 April 2015
                : 15
                [ ]Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research (PNG IMR), 60, Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province 411 Papua New Guinea
                [ ]Department of Medicine (Royal Melbourne Hospital), The University of Melbourne, Post Office Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, VIC 3050 Melbourne, Australia
                [ ]Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI), 1G Royal Parade, Parkville 3052, Melbourne, Australia
                [ ]Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, 51 Little France Crescent, Edinburgh, EH16 4SA UK
                [ ]Barcelona Centre for International Health Research (CRESIB), Rosselo 132, 08036 Barcelona, Spain
                © Unger et al.; licensee BioMed Central. 2015

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly credited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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