Background: The appropriateness of an individual's intra uterine growth is now considered an important determinant of both short and long term outcomes, yet currently used measures have several shortcomings. This study demonstrates a method of assessing appropriateness of intrauterine growth based on the estimation of each individual's optimal newborn dimensions from routinely available perinatal data. Appropriateness of growth can then be inferred from the ratio of the value of the observed dimension to that of the optimal dimension.
Methods: Fractional polynomial regression models including terms for non-pathological determinants of fetal size (gestational duration, fetal gender and maternal height, age and parity) were used to predict birth weight, birth length and head circumference from a population without any major risk factors for sub-optimal intra-uterine growth. This population was selected from a total population of all singleton, Caucasian births in Western Australia 1998-2002. Births were excluded if the pregnancy was exposed to factors known to influence fetal growth pathologically. The values predicted by these models were treated as the optimal values, given infant gender, gestational age, maternal height, parity, and age.
Results: The selected sample (N = 62,746) comprised 60.5% of the total Caucasian singleton birth cohort. Equations are presented that predict optimal birth weight, birth length and head circumference given gestational duration, fetal gender, maternal height, age and parity. The best fitting models explained 40.5% of variance for birth weight, 32.2% for birth length, and 25.2% for head circumference at birth.
Conclusion: Proportion of optimal birth weight (length or head circumference) provides a method of assessing appropriateness of intrauterine growth that is less dependent on the health of the reference population or the quality of their morphometric data than is percentile position on a birth weight distribution.