We investigated time trends in maternal weight before and during pregnancy and in infant birthweight in France, from 1972 to 2003, using data on singleton live term births from the representative National Perinatal Surveys of 1972, 1981, 1995, 1998 and 2003 (n=8,664, 4,494, 11,445, 12,006, 12,692, respectively). Mothers were interviewed a few days after delivery and data on delivery and the newborn were extracted from hospital records. Maternal prepregnancy weight, height, body mass index and pregnancy weight gain all increased from 1972 to 2003; however, birthweight did not show a parallel trend. After taking gestational age, maternal age, parity, country of origin, newborn gender and maternal smoking during pregnancy into account, mean birthweight increased between 1972 and 1995 but decreased thereafter and, consistently, there was an increase in small-for-gestational age (SGA) and a decrease in large-for-gestational age newborns. Further adjustment for induced delivery, an indicator of obstetric practice, did not change the results. A similar variation has been observed very recently in the US and in Germany. Further research is needed to identify the factors responsible for these discordant changes and especially the factors responsible for the recent increase in SGA since this has been shown to be associated with poorer health in later life.
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