Everything You Need To Know About Slow Fetal Growth

Every pregnant mom will have her own anxieties when she carries her little love. Even when they enjoy pregnancy, worries about the health of the baby often disturb them. Slow fetal growth is one such concern every other mom has. Some babies are diagnosed with slow growth during pregnancy. This happens when babies in the womb are smaller than they should be. And it is called intrauterine growth restriction, or IUGR. Several factors contribute to IUGR. Know more about the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of IUGR.

What Is Slow Fetal Growth?

The intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) happens when a fetal weight is below the 10th percentile for gestational age as determined by an ultrasound. This is also known as small-for-gestational age or fetal growth restriction. Newborns with IUGR appear pale and thin. They may even have loose, dry skin. There are two types of IUGR:

Symmetric or primary IUGR: Almost 20% to 25% of all cases of IUGR is symmetric. All the parts of the baby’s body are smaller in size. Thus, the size of his/her internal organs is not proportional to the gestational age.

Asymmetric or secondary IUGR: The growth is not proportional. While the head and brain are normal in size, the rest of the body is small.

Reasons For Slow Fetal Growth

When a baby does not receive enough oxygen and nutrients, it will have an adverse impact on the baby’s growth. Many factors could cause this lack of nourishment.

Mother’s Health Issues: If the mother suffers from any health conditions, the baby is at a greater risk of developing IUGR. Pregnancy-induced hypertension may affect the fetal growth. Gestational diabetes or low levels of amniotic fluid or oligohydramnios are other factors. The development of the fetus may not be proper if the mother has chronic kidney disease, heart disease or anemia. Certain medications could also affect the baby. Moreover, maternal weight less than 100 pounds may also contribute to slow fetal growth.

Mother’s Lifestyle: A healthy lifestyle is considered to be of great importance during pregnancy. A lack of it keeps the health of the mom and the baby at risk. Poor nutrition during pregnancy may restrict the growth of the baby. Also, use of drugs or cigarettes will definitely hurt the baby. Too much of alcohol is also not a good habit.

Placental Abnormalities: The most common reason for a slow fetal growth is the placental insufficiency. Due to this, the baby may not get oxygen and nutrients. The decreased blood flow in the uterus and placenta may also damage the baby. Placental abruption and placenta previa are other medical conditions that may leave a negative impact.

Fetus Issues: Chromosomal abnormalities could lead to slow fetal growth. Sometimes restricted fetal growth is associated with multiple pregnancies. If the baby gets exposed to infections such as German measles (rubella), toxoplasmosis, or cytomegalovirus, it may have a negative effect on his/her growth.

Diagnosing IUGR

If your baby is small in size, it does not mean that he/she has IUGR. The doctor will be able to diagnose IUGR, once the baby’s gestational age has been determined accurately. By comparing the baby’s gestational age and the expected growth rate, your healthcare provider will decide on the baby’s health. Here are the other diagnostic procedures:

Uterine fundal height: The doctor will measure the distance from the mother’s fundus (the top of the uterus) to the pubic bone. The measurement usually corresponds with pregnancy weeks, once you cross the 20th week of pregnancy.

Ultrasounds: They give you a more accurate picture of the baby’s growth.

Doppler flow: Using sound waves, it measures the blood flow in the fetal brain and the umbilical cord.

IUGR And Your Baby’s Health

Babies with IUGR may have certain complications. The impact depends on the severity of IUGR and the root cause behind it. They may have lower levels of oxygen and nutrients in the womb and at birth. Because of this, there exists a higher risk of stillborn. Their immunity level also will be less. Low blood sugar and abnormally high red blood count are other medical conditions often found in babies with IUGR. They may also have difficulty in breathing and maintaining body temperature.

Preventing IUGR

Reversing IUGR may not be possible all the time. Your healthcare provider could offer you certain treatments, which could minimize the effects. He/she will constantly monitor the fetal well-being. Sometimes your doctor may recommend an immediate delivery if there is a concern. However, leading a healthy life and taking care of a few things you can prevent slow fetal growth to a great extent.

  • Adopt a nutritious diet.
  • Maintain healthy weight gain.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol.
  • Never miss prenatal visits to the doctor.
  • Be sure to keep your fetal testing appointments.
  • Follow every instruction/advice from your healthcare provider. He/she knows your health status better than anyone.

After birth, the growth and development of a baby with IUGR varies, depending on the cause of IUGR. In most cases, they may catch up with their peers after initial hiccups. However, some babies may have developmental problems.

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