Background: Japan has an exceptionally high proportion of low-weight births and underweight women. It has been suggested that an appropriate increase in gestational weight gain (GWG) for underweight women will help to prevent low birth weight. The current strategy aims to raise the desired value of GWG equally for all pregnant women within the underweight category. However, it remains elusive whether or not the relationship between GWG and birth weight for gestational age (BW/GA) are uniformly equivalent for all the women.
Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort analysis of women who delivered their newborns at Tokyo Medical and Dental University Hospital from 2013 to 2017. First, in order to examine the direct effect of an increase or decrease in GWG on BW/GA, we analyzed the correlation between inter-pregnancy differences in GWG and BW/GA using a sub-cohort of women who experienced two deliveries during the study period (n = 75). Second, we dichotomized the main cohort (n = 1114) according to BW/GA to verify our hypothesis that the correlation between GWG and BW/GA differs depending on the size of the newborn.
Results: The inter-pregnancy difference in BW/GA was not correlated with that of GWG. However, the correlation between BW/GA of siblings was high (r = 0.63, p = 1.9 × 10- 9). The correlation between GWG and BW/GA in women who delivered larger-sized newborns was higher (r = 0.17, p = 4.1 × 10- 5) than that in women who delivered smaller-sized newborns (r = 0.099, p = 1.9 × 10- 2). This disparity did not change after adjustment for pre-pregnancy BMI. The mean birth weight in the dichotomized groups corresponded to percentile 52.0 and 13.4 of the international newborn size assessed by INTERGROWTH-21st standards.
Conclusions: In our study, GWG was positively correlated with BW/GA for heavier neonates whose birth weights were similar to the average neonatal weight according to world standards. However, caution might be required for low-birth-weight neonates because increased GWG does not always result in increased birth weight.
Keywords: Birth weight for gestational age; Body mass index; Gestational weight gain; Sibling comparison; Stratum-specific correlation.