Aim: The aim of this study was to investigate within a population-based cohort of 4384 infants (2182 males, 2202 females) whether fetal growth from early pregnancy onwards is related to infant development and whether this potential relationship is independent of postnatal growth.
Method: Ultrasound measurements were performed in early, mid-, and late pregnancy. Estimated fetal weight was calculated using head and abdominal circumference and femur length. Infant development was measured with the Minnesota Infant Development Inventory at 12 months (SD 1.1mo, range 10-17mo). Information on postnatal head size and body weight at 7 months was obtained from medical records.
Results: After adjusting for potential confounders and for postnatal growth, faster fetal weight gain from mid- to late pregnancy predicted a reduced risk of delayed social development (odds ratio [OR] 0.82; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.71-0.95, p=0.008), self-help abilities (OR 0.84; 95% CI 0.73-0.98, p=0.023), and overall infant development (OR 0.65; 95% CI 0.49-0.87, p=0.003). Similar findings were observed for fetal head growth from mid- to late pregnancy.
Interpretation: Faster fetal growth predicts a lower risk of delayed infant development independent of postnatal growth. These results suggest that reduced fetal growth between mid- and late pregnancy may determine subsequent developmental outcomes.