Fetal growth restriction and maternal smoking during pregnancy are independently implicated in lowering intellectual attainment in children. We hypothesized that only reduction of fetal growth that is attributable to extrinsic causes (e.g., maternal smoking) affects intellectual development of a child. Cross-sectional survey of 3,739 students in Nova Scotia (Canada) in 2003 was linked with the perinatal database, parental interviews on socio-demographic factors and the performance on standardized tests when primarily 11-12 years of age, thereby forming a retrospective cohort. Data was analyzed using hierarchical logistic regression with correction for clustering of children within schools. The risk of poor test result among children born small-for-gestational-age (SGA) to mothers who smoked was 29.4%, higher than in any other strata of maternal smoking and fetal growth. The adjusted odds ratio among SGA children born to mothers who smoked was the only one elevated compared to children who were not growth restricted and born to mothers who did not smoke (17.0%, OR = 1.46, 95% CI 1.02, 2.09). Other perinatal, maternal and socio-demographic factors did not alter this pattern of effect modification. Heterogeneity of etiology of fetal growth restriction should be consider in studies that address examine its impact on health over life course.
Keywords: cross-sectional sample; educational achievement; fetal growth retardation; maternal exposure; retrospective cohort study; tobacco smoking.