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Small fetal size early on might carry risks later

Poor growth in early pregnancy linked to heart-health warning signs in childhood

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Poor fetal growth in the first trimester is associated with cardiovascular risk factors in childhood, Dutch researchers report. While far from conclusive, the findings suggest that impaired early fetal growth — even before a woman knows she is pregnant — might have long-term consequences, the scientists report January 23 in BMJ.

Physician Vincent Jaddoe of Erasmus University in the Netherlands and his colleagues calculated the conception dates for 1,184 women using the time of their last menstrual period. The researchers then used ultrasound to measure the length of each fetus at the end of the first trimester — with tests done 10 to 14 weeks into pregnancy — and identified fetuses in the bottom and top one-fifth.

Later, the researchers took health measurements of the women’s children at a median age of 6 years. Poorer growth during early pregnancy was linked to greater total fat mass, higher diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in readouts), more abdominal fat and higher cholesterol. The trends held after the researchers accounted for differences in the moms, including duration of breast-feeding. The study bolsters increasing evidence that health risks can start early.

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