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

c blood pressure readings (diastolic is the bottom number in blood pressure) were more likely to be smaller. Women who didn't use folic acid supplements and those with higher levels of red blood cells also had smaller babies, according to the study.

A small size during the first trimester translated to a higher risk of certain complications later in the pregnancy, such as preterm birth and low birth weight.

Babies that had first-trimester growth restriction had 7.2 percent odds of being born preterm compared to 4 percent for babies who weren't growth-restricted. Odds of low birth weight were 7.5 percent for growth-restricted babies compared to 3.5 percent for other babies. And, the odds of being born small-for-gestational-age were 10.6 percent for babies who were growth-restricted compared to 4 percent for babies who grew normally during early pregnancy.

Jaddoe and Dr. Gordon Smith, author of an accompanying editorial in the same issue of the journal, believe that when a woman is exposed to poor lifestyle habits in early pregnancy, it may affect development of the placenta, which then affects the fetus' ability to survive and thrive.

"Many adverse outcomes of later pregnancy are related to abnormal function of the placenta," explained Smith, head of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Cambridge in England. "Many key processes in the establishment of a normal placenta take place in early pregnancy. I think that if the placenta fails to develop normally in early pregnancy, it is impaired for the rest of the pregnancy, hence the associations with later complications."

The bottom line for women is that it's important to go to the doctor before getting pregnant to find out what steps to take to ensure that you're in the best shape possible before you get pregnant, such as quitting smoking and taking folic acid supplements.

"The fetus is very vulnerable, especially during the first trimester
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