PURPOSE: Factors that relate to the mother's own course of growth and development might influence later reproductive performances. This study examines the effect of maternal birth weight and maternal height and maternal weight gain, on term-small for gestational age (SGA) and preterm delivery.METHODS: Data used for this study were from the South Carolina Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) and birth certificate files for 1993-1995. Since PRAMS data were weighted to adjust for sampling probabilities, non-response and survey design, Survey Data Analysis (SUDAAN) software was used in all analyses.RESULTS: Maternal birth weight was strongly associated with term SGA (OR = 3.65; 95% CI = 1.83-7.29), but not preterm delivery among black mothers; it was associated with preterm delivery (OR = 1.86; 95% CI = 1.09-3.17), but not term-SGA for white mothers. Maternal birth weight was associated with term SGA among nonsmokers only (OR = 2.34; 95% CI = 1.33-4.11). Maternal weight gain modified the effect of height on birth outcomes. Among women with inadequate weight gain, there was a 3-fold increase in risk for term-SGA (OR = 3.06; 95% CI = 2.41-3.89) for short maternal height, but not for preterm delivery. Among women with adequate plus weight gain, the association between short maternal height and term-SGA was 2.7 (95% CI = 0.55-9.43) compared to 3.67 (95% CI = 0.1.41-9.56) between short maternal height and preterm delivery. Maternal weight gain also modified the effect of maternal height on both outcomes for black mothers and for nonsmokers only.CONCLUSIONS: Findings indicate the need for interventions directed to those women who can benefit most from appropriate targeted weight gain recommendations. Therefore, prevention methods should be implemented to encourage short stature women to gain adequate weight during pregnancy.