Reasons for Fetal Undergrowth


Your baby should develop and grow at a certain rate. Your healthcare professional, such as your midwife or doctor will keep track of fetal growth by measuring your abdomen, your weight and checking your heart rate. If any discrepancy between your size and fetal growth markers are detected, your doctor may do an ultrasound to investigate the cause. According to Baby 2 See, there are two causes for fetal undergrowth. The most prevalent cause, approximately 70 percent, is preterm birth. The other 30 percent of the babies are full term, but did not grow normally in the womb.

Birth Defect

  • Approximately one of every 12 babies born in the United States is underweight, according to the March of Dimes, and may suffer from fetal bone or heart disease. Also, infections, bacteria, virus or parasites in the uterus can interfere with development. Some infections include chickenpox and cytomegalovirus in the fetus which can interfere with fetal growth. Another cause of fetal undergrowth is umbilical cord, placenta and congenital deformities. Placental problems can reduce blood flow and nutrients to the fetus.

Weight & Nutrition

  • Age and weight can affect fetal growth. For instance, a mother's weight before the pregnancy can interfere with development if she's underweight. If a mother is over 45, or younger than 20, these age factors can cause undergrowth. In addition, according to Baby 2 See, a woman is approximately three times more like to have a fetus that does not grow normally if she has not gained at least 22 pounds during pregnancy.

Chronic Health Problems

  • A side effect in a woman who suffers from a chronic health problem may be fetal undergrowth. The types of diseases that can affect the fetus are chronic kidney or blood vessel diseases. Also, diabetes and chronic lung, heart and high blood pressure problems can reduce normal fetal growth.

Other Causes

  • A woman who smokes, according to Baby 2 See, is up to three times more likely to have a fetus that does not gain weight in the womb. In addition, alcohol, painkillers and drugs like cocaine can affect fetal birth weight. Socioeconomic problems, such as lack of education and prenatal care, are also associated with fetal undergrowth.

Prior Issues/Current Situations

  • A mother who had a prior preterm delivery is also at risk of having another baby who suffers from fetal undergrowth. Also, a woman pregnant with twins or multiples can have babies who do not have normal birth weight. A woman with a small frame or skeletal structure can also have a baby with a low birth weight.


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