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      Fetal Growth versus Birthweight: The Role of Placenta versus Other Determinants


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          Birthweight is used as an indicator of intrauterine growth, and determinants of birthweight are widely studied. Less is known about determinants of deviating patterns of growth in utero. We aimed to study the effects of maternal characteristics on both birthweight and fetal growth in third trimester and introduce placental weight as a possible determinant of both birthweight and fetal growth in third trimester.


          The STORK study is a prospective cohort study including 1031 healthy pregnant women of Scandinavian heritage with singleton pregnancies. Maternal determinants (age, parity, body mass index (BMI), gestational weight gain and fasting plasma glucose) of birthweight and fetal growth estimated by biometric ultrasound measures were explored by linear regression models. Two models were fitted, one with only maternal characteristics and one which included placental weight.


          Placental weight was a significant determinant of birthweight. Parity, BMI, weight gain and fasting glucose remained significant when adjusted for placental weight. Introducing placental weight as a covariate reduced the effect estimate of the other variables in the model by 62% for BMI, 40% for weight gain, 33% for glucose and 22% for parity. Determinants of fetal growth were parity, BMI and weight gain, but not fasting glucose. Placental weight was significant as an independent variable. Parity, BMI and weight gain remained significant when adjusted for placental weight. Introducing placental weight reduced the effect of BMI on fetal growth by 23%, weight gain by 14% and parity by 17%.


          In conclusion, we find that placental weight is an important determinant of both birthweight and fetal growth. Our findings indicate that placental weight markedly modifies the effect of maternal determinants of both birthweight and fetal growth. The differential effect of third trimester glucose on birthweight and growth parameters illustrates that birthweight and fetal growth are not identical entities.

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          Most cited references 33

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          Maternal nutrition and birth outcomes.

          In this review, the authors summarize current knowledge on maternal nutritional requirements during pregnancy, with a focus on the nutrients that have been most commonly investigated in association with birth outcomes. Data sourcing and extraction included searches of the primary resources establishing maternal nutrient requirements during pregnancy (e.g., Dietary Reference Intakes), and searches of Medline for "maternal nutrition"/[specific nutrient of interest] and "birth/pregnancy outcomes," focusing mainly on the less extensively reviewed evidence from observational studies of maternal dietary intake and birth outcomes. The authors used a conceptual framework which took both primary and secondary factors (e.g., baseline maternal nutritional status, socioeconomic status of the study populations, timing and methods of assessing maternal nutritional variables) into account when interpreting study findings. The authors conclude that maternal nutrition is a modifiable risk factor of public health importance that can be integrated into efforts to prevent adverse birth outcomes, particularly among economically developing/low-income populations.
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            Hyperglycaemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcome (HAPO) Study: associations with maternal body mass index.

            To determine whether higher maternal body mass index (BMI), independent of maternal glycaemia, is associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes. Observational cohort study. Fifteen centres in nine countries. Eligible pregnant women. A 75-g 2-hour oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) was performed between 24 and 32 weeks of gestation in all participants. Maternal BMI was calculated from height and weight measured at the OGTT. Fetal adiposity was assessed using skinfold measurements and percentage of body fat was calculated. Associations between maternal BMI and pregnancy outcomes were assessed using multiple logistic regression analyses, with adjustment for potential confounders. Predefined primary outcomes were birthweight >90th percentile, primary caesarean section, clinical neonatal hypoglycaemia and cord serum C-peptide >90th percentile. Secondary outcomes included pre-eclampsia, preterm delivery (before 37 weeks) and percentage of body fat >90th percentile. Among 23 316 blinded participants, with control for maternal glycaemia and other potential confounders, higher maternal BMI was associated (odds ratio [95% confidence interval] for highest {> or =42.0 kg/m(2)} versus lowest { 90th percentile (3.52 [2.48-5.00]) and percentage of body fat >90th percentile (3.28 [2.28-4.71]), caesarean section (2.23 [1.66-2.99]), cord C-peptide >90th percentile (2.33 [1.58-3.43]) and pre-eclampsia (14.14 [9.44-21.17]). Preterm delivery was less frequent with higher BMI (0.48 [0.31-0.74]). Associations with fetal size tended to plateau in the highest maternal BMI categories. Higher maternal BMI, independent of maternal glycaemia, is strongly associated with increased frequency of pregnancy complications, in particular those related to excess fetal growth and adiposity and to pre-eclampsia.
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              Size at birth and early childhood growth in relation to maternal smoking, parity and infant breast-feeding: longitudinal birth cohort study and analysis.

              There is remarkably wide variation in rates of infancy growth, however, its regulation is not well understood. We examined the relationship between maternal smoking, parity, and breast- or bottle-feeding to size at birth and childhood growth between 0 and 5 y in a large representative birth cohort. A total of 1,335 normal infants had weight, length/height, and head circumference measured at birth and on up to 10 occasions to 5 y old. Multilevel modeling (MLwiN) was used to analyze longitudinal growth data. Infants of maternal smokers were symmetrically small at birth (p < 0.0005) compared with infants of nonsmokers, however, showed complete catch-up growth over the first 12 mo. In contrast, infants of primiparous pregnancies were thin at birth (p < 0.0005), showed dramatic catch-up growth, and were heavier and taller than infants of nonprimiparous pregnancies from 12 mo onwards. Breast-fed infants were similar in size at birth than bottle-fed infants, but grew more slowly during infancy. Among infants who showed catch-up growth, males caught up more rapidly than females (p = 0.002). In conclusion, early postnatal growth rates are strongly influenced by a drive to compensate for antenatal restraint or enhancement of fetal growth by maternal-uterine factors. The mechanisms that signal catch-up or catch-down growth are unknown but may involve programming of appetite. The importance of nutrition on early childhood growth is emphasized by the marked difference in growth rates between breast- and bottle-fed infants. The sequence of fetal growth restraint and postnatal catch-up growth may predispose to obesity risk in this contemporary population.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                18 June 2012
                : 7
                : 6
                [1 ]Department of Obstetrics, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway
                [2 ]Department of Specialized Endocrinology, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway
                [3 ]University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
                University of Southampton, United Kingdom
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: NV KG JB TH. Performed the experiments: MCR CMF NV KG. Analyzed the data: MCR CMF KG GH TH. Wrote the paper: MCR CMF JB GH TH.

                Roland et al. 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 author and source are credited.
                Page count
                Pages: 7
                Research Article
                Clinical Research Design
                Longitudinal Studies
                Observational Studies
                Prospective Studies
                Obstetrics and Gynecology
                Pregnancy Complications
                Public Health
                Preventive Medicine



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