Shorter women, shorter pregnancies, study finds

Shorter women, shorter pregnancies, study finds

Shorter mothers are likely to have shorter pregnancies, resulting in smaller babies and a higher risk for a preterm birth, a new study finds.

Maternal height, which is determined by genetic factors, influences the fetal environment, including the length of pregnancy and frequency of prematurity, according to investigators at the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center Ohio Collaborative.

“Multiple medical studies have shown that women who are petite are at increased risk of having premature birth, delivering a low birth weight baby or delivering a baby with growth restriction,” says Dr. Vibhaben Thaker, a neonatologist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill. “It’s important for petite women to be aware of this correlation when they get pregnant.”

Annually, more than 450,000 babies are born prematurely in the U.S., according to the March of Dimes. Preemies face serious and lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, jaundice, vision loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual delays. Worldwide, 15 million babies are born early, and more than 1 million die due to complications of an early birth.

The correlation between a mother’s height and the length of her pregnancy sheds additional light on the many issues that can factor into preterm birth.

“The explanation for why this happens is unclear but could depend not only on unknown genes but also on a woman’s lifetime of nutrition and her environment,” says Dr. Louis Muglia, the primary investigator.

The research paper, “Assessing the Causal Relationship of Maternal Height on Birth Size and Gestational Age at Birth: A Mendelian Randomization Analysis,” examined 3,485 Nordic women and their babies and was published by the journal PLOS Medicine.

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  1. It seems like a broader sample size is needed to study this issue, considering less than 4,000 Nordic women were observed to draw these conclusions, and according to the article, there are 15 million babies born prematurely around the world each year. 4,000 out of 15,000,000 women of one type of ethnicity… so that is 0.027% of the premature births in the world, and we do not know how many Nordic women account for the total 15,000,000 preterm births. I’m glad you pointed this study out, but I think I will take this information with a grain of salt until more research is conducted. Lifestyle, nutrition, and social environment have been shown to have the greatest impact on neonatal health. I come from a family of petite women, and there is no history of premature births or underweight babies.

  2. I do not know how the experts reached this conclusion. I am 4’11”, have two children a girl and a boy. My daughter was born 5 days after my due date and weighted 7lbs. and 20″ My son was born on the due date exactly and his weight was 8.8 lbs. and 22.5″. I guess it is good I am not a Nordic woman but a Spaniard.

  3. I recall reading a study, maybe a year ago, that indicated the length of a pregnancy was determined by energy or resource capacity of the mother. This was for humans and perhaps others.. When the demand on these resources by the unborn exceeded a certain percentage of what the mother had, the child would be born. If so, it would make sense a smaller mother would have a shorter pregnancy unless the child was proportionally smaller.

  4. I’ve also read that taller women have longer periods of gestation; maybe doctors shouldn’t be so quick to induce labor in those circumstances

  5. A lie my baby weighed 8poubds9oz an I’m 4-9 height wise weighed 98 pounds b for pregnancy

    • Hi I just found out I was pregnant and I’m 4’9 and currently weighing 102 I’m nervous of having complications cause I’m so little. This is my first time being a mom. Should I be worried I think I’m 7 weeks in

  6. Baby weighed 8p9oz so dis not true I was 98pnds bfor an I’m still short

  7. Really? Second article today “warning” short women about the perils of pregnancy is Way too alarmist – I am 5’1″ and had Three healthy full term children, all abt 7.5 lbs. First baby born on due date, Second baby born 3 days after due date, third was born 3 days bf due.
    First time (especially) pregnancies can be nerve wracking enough not knowing what to expect,
    and articles like this are more alarmist than helpful. 4

  8. Rachel Sciullo March 6, 2021 at 4:31 pm · Reply

    im 4’9″ and i weighed 93lbs before i was pregnant with my first daughter and she was 5lbs 2oz at birth ad we had to do an emergency csection at 36 weeks because she started to crack 2 of my ribs on my right side and my short abdomen couldnt handle how big i was getting. i only gained 17lbs during that pregnancy.

    with my current pregnancy.. im 17 weeks and have already been in the hospital once for constant heavy contractions and my starting weight was 91lbs. im in a lot more pain with this pregnancy and im currently on doctor ordered bed rest so im hoping i can make it to at least 30 weeks before i have to deliver.

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About the Author

Lisa Parro
Lisa Parro

Lisa Parro, health enews contributor, is a content manager for Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. A former journalist, Lisa has been in health care public relations since 2008 and has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. She and her family live in Chicago’s western suburbs.