Fetal growth curves

  • P.-H. Persson


Recording birthweights of newborn infants is a relatively new procedure. The French obstetrician, François Mauriceau was perhaps the first to record an infant’s birthweight. The first apparently accurate report on birthweights was published in Göttingen in 1753 by the German obstetrician Johannes Roederer. He found the average birthweight of male infants to be 3050 g and of females 2860 g.(1) One of the first investigators to point out that all babies with a low birthweight were not necessarily premature was Raymond D McBurney. In 1946, he presented cases of “undernourished full-term infants” thus introducing the concept of restricted intrauterine growth.(2) Low birthweight, due to premature birth, undernourishment or a combination of both, is associated with a high rate of perinatal mortality and morbidity.(3,4) Consequently, intrauterine growth retardation, true or suspected, is one of the major clinical dilemmas today. In Sweden diagnosis and treatment of intrauterine growth retardation demands approximately 10% of the total resources for obstetric care. Since the beginning of the 60s a large number of articles have been published on the classification of newborn infants according to their birthweight and length, as well as standard curves for intrauterine growth. Due to the inaccessibility of the fetus in utero, most growth curves were based on the endpoint observations of birthweight and are by their nature cross-sectional. It is seldom known whether a low birthweight is the result of a continuously low, but otherwise normal, growth velocity for that particular fetus or if it is due to deviation from the predetermined growth rate.


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© The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists 1989

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  • P.-H. Persson

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