Smaller than Expected Fetal Growth

During pregnancy, sometimes a fetus doesn’t grow as much or as fast as expected. When a baby doesn’t reach normal weight during pregnancy, the condition is known as fetal growth restriction or intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR).

Causes of fetal growth restriction

Fetal growth restriction can be caused by problems with the placenta, which carries nutrients to the baby. It also can be related to health problems in the mother, such as advanced diabetes, high blood pressure, infections, smoking or excessive alcohol use. Chromosomal defects may also be a factor. The condition is more likely if the mother is carrying twins, triplets or more .

Caring for underweight babies

When a fetus does not grow at a normal rate, the baby may be more susceptible to infections, difficulty breathing, and trouble maintaining a healthy body temperature. We carefully monitor these babies throughout pregnancy to ensure they are not in danger. In some cases, they may need to be delivered prematurely and require neonatal intensive care until they are strong enough to survive.

Testing for fetal growth restriction

Several non-invasive tests can be used to detect problems with a baby’s growth in the uterus:

  • Fetal ultrasound uses sound waves to create a picture of your baby and show your OB/GYN how your baby is growing
  • Doppler ultrasound measures the baby’s blood flow to look for problems.
  • Weight checks let the doctor know if the mother is gaining an appropriate amount of weight.
  • Fetal monitoring measures the rate and pattern of the baby's heartbeat through electrodes placed on the mother’s abdomen.

Keep your prenatal appointments

The most important thing you can do to ensure your baby is growing properly is to keep all of your prenatal appointments. This makes it easier for your OB/GYN to monitor your baby’s health and identify any problems early, so you can have a healthy, worry-free pregnancy.

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