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Mom's Lifestyle in Early Pregnancy Affects Baby's Size
Date:2/9/2010

Smoking, low folic acid, high blood pressure restrict fetal growth, study finds,,,,

TUESDAY, Feb. 9 (HealthDay News) -- The lifestyle habits you bring into pregnancy can have lasting effects on your baby's health, new research shows.

A Dutch study found that women who smoked, had high blood pressure or low folic acid levels in early pregnancy had babies that were smaller in the first trimester of pregnancy and had a higher risk of complications later.

"Our study demonstrates that several maternal physical characteristics and lifestyle habits, such as smoking and non-use of folic acid supplements, affect first-trimester fetal growth," said study senior author Dr. Vincent Jaddoe, a pediatric epidemiologist at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

"First-trimester growth restriction is associated with higher risks of adverse birth outcomes and accelerated postnatal growth rates. Thus, the first trimester of pregnancy seems to be a very critical period for fetal growth and development. This is important, since it suggests that the fetus is already affected before pregnant women visit their midwife or obstetrician," he said.

For the study, published in the Feb. 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the researchers followed 1,631 pregnant women from their first trimester through their pregnancies. The growth of their offspring was assessed until the children were 2.

The average age of the mothers was 31, and 71 percent were white. More than half had a higher than high school education. The average body mass index was 23.5, which is normal (over 25 is considered overweight). About one-quarter smoked at the start of the study.

The researchers found that certain factors affected the likelihood that a fetus would have a small crown to rump length (a standard way to measure babies using ultrasound). Babies whose mothers smoked or had higher diastoli
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