INTERGROWTH-21st vs customized birthweight standards for identification of perinatal mortality and morbidity

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2016 Apr;214(4):509.e1-509.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2015.10.931. Epub 2015 Nov 4.


Background: The recently published INTERGROWTH-21st Project international population standard for newborn size is intended for global use, but its ability to identify small infants at risk of adverse outcomes in a general obstetric population has not been reported.

Objective: The objective of the study was to compare adverse neonatal outcomes among small-for-gestational-age (SGA) infants between the INTERGROWTH-21st standard and a customized birthweight standard (accounting for maternal characteristics of height, weight, parity, and ethnicity). We hypothesized that in a multiethnic general obstetric population in Auckland, New Zealand, a customized birthweight standard would better identify SGA infants at-risk of neonatal morbidity/mortality and stillbirth than the INTERGROWTH-21st standard.

Study design: Using prospectively gathered maternity data from a general obstetric population in Auckland, New Zealand, from 2006 to 2013 (n = 53,484 births at ≥ 33 weeks), infants were classified as SGA (birthweight < 10th centile) by INTERGROWTH-21st and customized standards. Infants were further categorized as SGA by both criteria, INTERGROWTH-21st only, customized only, or not SGA (met neither criteria). Composite adverse neonatal outcome was defined as neonatal death, neonatal intensive care admission > 48 hours, or ventilation > 4 hours or 5-minute Apgar score < 7. Relative risks for primary outcomes were estimated using modified Poisson regression, with the non-SGA group as the referent.

Results: Incidence of SGA was 4.5% by INTERGROWTH-21st and 11.6% by customized standard. Compared with those not SGA, infants identified as small for gestational age by both criteria had the highest risk of adverse neonatal outcome (relative risk [RR], 4.1, 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.7-4.6) and stillbirth (RR, 8.3, 95% CI, 5.1-13.4). Infants SGA by customized standard only (n = 4015) had an increased risk of adverse neonatal outcome (RR, 2.0, 95% CI, 1.8-2.2) and stillbirth (RR, 3.0, 95% CI, 1.7-5.3). Few infants were identified as SGA by INTERGROWTH-21st only (n = 172), and risks of adverse neonatal outcome and stillbirth were not increased. Findings were unchanged when analyses were limited to term infants (n = 50,739). The INTERGROWTH-21st standard identified more Indian (12.8%) and Asian (5.8%) but fewer European (3.0%) and Pacific (2.9%) infants as SGA (P < .01). Customized criteria identified more than 3 times as many SGA infants among Maori (14.5%), Pacific (13.5%), and European (11.2%) infants and twice as many among Asian (10.3%) infants (P<0.01) compared with INTERGROWTH-21st criteria. The majority of SGA infants by INTERGROWTH-21st only were born to Indian and Asian mothers (95.4%).

Conclusions: In our general obstetric population, birthweight customization identified more SGA infants at risk of perinatal mortality and morbidity compared with the INTERGROWTH-21st standard. The INTERGROWTH-21st standard failed to detect many at-risk SGA infants, particularly among ethnic groups with larger maternal size while disproportionately identifying higher rates of SGA among those with smaller maternal size. Local validation is needed prior to implementation of the INTERGROWTH-21st standard to avoid misclassification of infant birth size.

Keywords: INTERGROWTH-21st Project; customized birthweight; perinatal morbidity; perinatal mortality; small for gestational age.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Birth Weight*
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies
  • Racial Groups
  • Reference Values
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Stillbirth*