Scientists in Ontario have found an increased risk for stillbirth for not just the smallest of fetuses, but also for babies at the largest end of the weight-for-gestational-age spectrum. The study, published in the Journal of Perinatology, involved reviewing birth data for over 767,000 births in Ontario, Canada including all 4,697 stillbirths which occurred between 2002 and 2006.
In the study population, 19% of stillbirths happened in fetus who were in the lowest 10% of weight for gestational age, with 6% occurring in the lowest 1% of weights. However, nearly 1% of stillbirths also occurred in the largest 1% of fetal weights.
How is this information useful?
The authors of the study report that as many as 95% of women in the Western world get a Level 2 Ultrasound before they reach 22 weeks gestational age. If a fetus's weight is within either of the high-risk ends of the spectrum during that ultrasound, it could be beneficial to get more frequent ultrasounds for the rest of the pregnancy to monitor fetal weight. With that information, an OB/GYN or perinatologist may be able to recommend an early delivery to prevent potential stillbirth.
Other studies will need to confirm this risk pattern, but the results certainly warrant further investigation.
What's the take-home message for readers?
Prenatal care is important and may help lower your risk of having a pregnancy loss. When you find out you're pregnant, especially if you've had a previous miscarriage or other pregnancy loss, you should begin prenatal care as soon as possible.
If you have a chronic health problem that may contribute to having a large- or small-for-gestational-age baby, make sure you're following your doctor's instructions and treatment regimens, and keep up with your scheduled prenatal visits.
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