Maternal height and the risk of preterm birth and low birth weight: a systematic review and meta-analyses

J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2012 Aug;34(8):721-746. doi: 10.1016/S1701-2163(16)35337-3.


Objective: Preterm birth (PTB) and low birth weight (LBW) are the leading causes of neonatal morbidity and mortality, but the effect of maternal height on these outcomes continues to be debated. Our objective was to determine the relationships between maternal height and PTB and LBW.

Data sources: Medline and EMBASE were searched from their inceptions.

Study selection: Studies with a reference group that assessed the effect of maternal height on PTB (< 37 weeks) and LBW (< 2500 grams) in singletons were included.

Data extraction: Data were extracted independently by two reviewers.

Data synthesis: Fifty-six studies were included involving 333 505 women. In the cohort studies, the unadjusted risk of PTB in short-statured women was increased (relative risk [RR] 1.23; 95% CI 1.11 to 1.37), as was the unadjusted risk of LBW (RR 1.81; 95% CI 1.47 to 2.23), although not all of the studies with adjusted data found the same association. Maternal tall stature was not associated with PTB (unadjusted RR 0.97; 95% CI 0.82 to 1.14), although LBW was decreased (unadjusted RR 0.56; 95% CI 0.46 to 0.69), but not in the adjusted data.

Conclusion: From our complete systematic review and meta-analyses, to our knowledge the first in this area, we conclude that short-statured women have higher unadjusted risks of PTB and LBW and tall women have approximately one half the unadjusted risk of LBW of women of reference height.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Height / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mothers
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth / epidemiology*