Shorter women have shorter pregnancies

August 18, 2015, March of Dimes Foundation
Pregnancy
Pregnancy test. Credit: public domain

Shorter mothers have shorter pregnancies, smaller babies, and higher risk for a preterm birth. New research has found that a mother's height directly influences her risk for preterm birth.

Investigators at the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center Ohio Collaborative looked at 3,485 Nordic women and their babies, and found that maternal height, which is determined by genetic factors, helped shape the fetal environment, influencing the length of pregnancy and frequency of prematurity. In contrast, birth length and birth weight are mainly influenced by transmitted genes. Preterm birth is the number one killer of newborns in the United States and serious gaps exist between racial and ethnic groups.

More than 450,000 babies are born too soon in the U.S. and the national preterm birth rate is worse than many other high-resource countries, the March of Dimes says. Worldwide, 15 million babies are born preterm, and more than one million die due to complications of an early birth. Babies who survive an early birth face serious and lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, jaundice, vision loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual delays.

"A major goal of the nationwide network of March of Dimes prematurity research centers is identifying genes that govern fetal growth and length of pregnancy. That a woman's height influences gestational length, independent of the genes she passes on that determine fetal size, is a major finding by our research networks, and the first of what we expect to be many genetic contributions," said Joe Leigh Simpson, MD, March of Dimes senior vice president for Research and Global Programs.

"The innovative, team-based model of our prematurity research centers is critical to understanding the unknown causes or preterm birth. This new finding adds one small piece toward solving the much larger puzzle of ," says Dr. Jennifer L. Howse, president of the March of Dimes.

The March of Dimes is raising $75 million to support its five prematurity research centers. These unique, transdisciplinary centers bring together the brightest minds from many diverse disciplines—geneticists, molecular biologists, epidemiologists, engineers, computer scientists, and others—to work together to find answers to prevent premature birth. In addition to the Ohio Collaborative, the March of Dimes has established research centers at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, at the University of Pennsylvania, at Washington University in St. Louis, and at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and Duke University.

"Our finding shows that a mother's height has a direct impact on how long her pregnancy lasts," said Louis Muglia, MD, PhD, the primary investigator of the Ohio Collaborative, and co-director of the Perinatal Institute at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. "The explanation for why this happens is unclear but could depend not only on unknown genes but also on woman's lifetime of nutrition and her environment."

Explore further: The microbiome of a woman's reproductive tract may predict preterm birth

More information: The research paper, "Assessing the Causal Relationship of Maternal Height on Birth Size and Gestational Age at Birth: A Mendelian Randomization Analysis," was published online Aug. 18 by PLoS Medicine.

Related Stories

The microbiome of a woman's reproductive tract may predict preterm birth

August 17, 2015
The microbiomes in the reproductive tracts of pregnant women who later had a baby born too soon are significantly different from those of women who delivered full term.

March of Dimes calls for 50 percent reduction in preterm births by 2030

November 3, 2014
The March of Dimes is calling for a nationwide effort to reduce U.S. preterm births to 5.5 percent of all live births by 2030. Seven other developed countries already have preterm birth rates below 6 percent, and 15 have ...

New research finds baby's genes, not mom's, may trigger some preterm births

February 2, 2015
Some babies may be genetically predisposed to being born too soon, and variants in the DNA of the fetus—not the mother—may be the trigger for some early births.

United States' premature birth rate continues to decline

January 31, 2013
(HealthDay)—The rate of premature births has declined to 11.7 percent, the lowest rate in a decade, according to the March of Dimes 2012 Premature Birth Report Card.

Researchers identify new approach to personalize prevention of preterm birth

February 3, 2014
New research findings may soon help doctors personalize preterm birth prevention treatments by identifying which women at higher risk for preterm birth will be helped by progesterone injections.

US preterm birth rate hits healthy people 2020 goal seven years early

November 6, 2014
The national preterm birth rate fell to 11.4 percent in 2013 – the lowest in 17 years—meeting the federal Healthy People 2020 goal seven years early. Despite this progress, the U.S. still received a "C" on the 7th annual ...

Recommended for you

Blood test may identify gestational diabetes risk in first trimester

August 16, 2018
A blood test conducted as early as the 10th week of pregnancy may help identify women at risk for gestational diabetes, a pregnancy-related condition that poses potentially serious health risks for mothers and infants, according ...

Artificial placenta created in the laboratory

August 14, 2018
In order to better understand important biological membranes, it is necessary to explore new methods. Researchers at Vienna University of Technology (Vienna) have succeeded in creating an artificial placental barrier on a ...

The inequalities of prenatal stress

August 14, 2018
Exposure to an acute stress in utero can have long-term consequences extending into childhood – but only among children in poor households, according to a new Stanford study that looked at the long-term impact of acute, ...

Better studies needed on effectiveness of fertility awareness-based methods for contraception

August 10, 2018
A new systematic review provides the most comprehensive assessment to date on the scientific evidence estimating the effectiveness of various fertility awareness-based methods (FABMs) for contraception. "Effectiveness of ...

Inducing labor at 39 weeks reduces likelihood of C-sections

August 8, 2018
Inducing labor in healthy first-time mothers in the 39th week of pregnancy results in lower rates of cesarean sections compared with waiting for labor to begin naturally at full term, according to a multicenter study funded ...

Three-dimensional model of human placenta developed

August 3, 2018
The placenta is the organ connecting mother and embryo. Its main functions are the exchange of nutrients, gases and metabolic products and the production of hormones and other substances essential for embryonic development. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.