Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 16, Issue 7, pp 1374–1384 | Cite as

Greater Maternal Weight Gain During Pregnancy Predicts a Large but Lean Fetal Phenotype: A Prospective Cohort Study

  • Alexis Jayne Hure
  • Clare Elizabeth Collins
  • Warwick Bruce Giles
  • Jonathan Winter Paul
  • Roger Smith


The objective of this study is to describe the fetal phenotype in utero and its associations with maternal pre-pregnancy weight and gestational weight gain. This prospective longitudinal cohort included 179 Australian women with singleton pregnancies. Serial ultrasound measurements were performed at 19, 25, 30 and 36 (±1) weeks gestation and maternal anthropometry were collected concurrently. The ultrasound scans included the standard fetal biometry of head circumference, biparietal diameter, abdominal circumference, and femur length, and body composition at the abdomen and mid-thigh, including fat and lean mass cross-sectional areas. Maternal gestational weight gain was compared to current clinical guidelines. The participants had an average of 3.7 ± 0.8 scans and birth data were available for 165 neonates. Fifty four per cent of the cohort gained weight in excess of current recommendations, according to pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI). Maternal gestational weight positively predicted fetal abdominal circumference (P 0.029) and lean abdominal mass area (P 0.046) in linear mixed model regression analysis, adjusted for known and potential confounders. At any pre-pregnancy BMI gaining weight above the current recommendations resulted in a larger fetus according to standard biometry, because of significantly larger lean muscle mass at the abdomen (P 0.024) and not due to an increase in fat mass (P 0.463). We have demonstrated the importance of maternal weight gain, independent of pre-pregnancy BMI, to support the growth of a large but lean fetus. Prenatal counselling should focus on achieving a healthy BMI prior to conception so that gestational weight gain restrictions can be minimised.


Fetus Growth Pregnancy Ultrasound Weight gain 



We thank all WATCH Study participants who have generously volunteered their time and personal information. We thank Trish Engel and Therese Finnegan (Midwives) for their involvement in the recruitment process, and Dr Patrick McElduff for the statistical support he has provided for these analyses. CEC is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Career Development Award.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexis Jayne Hure
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Clare Elizabeth Collins
    • 1
    • 3
  • Warwick Bruce Giles
    • 1
    • 4
  • Jonathan Winter Paul
    • 1
    • 2
  • Roger Smith
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Mothers and Babies Research CentreHunter Medical Research InstituteNewcastleAustralia
  2. 2.School of Medicine and Public HealthUniversity of NewcastleNewcastleAustralia
  3. 3.School of Health SciencesUniversity of NewcastleNewcastleAustralia
  4. 4.Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Neonatology, Northern Clinical SchoolUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  5. 5.Level 3 EndocrinologyJohn Hunter HospitalNew Lambton HeightsAustralia

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