First international standards for growth rolled out

It can be really daunting, as a first time parent, going through a full 9 months of pregnancy and finally delivering your baby only to find out that he/she might be too small or too big. Thankfully a new study has been concluded which sets, for the first time ever, an international standard for fetal growth and newborn size.

This is an extract and edited version of a recent article from Science Daily;

“The first international standards for fetal growth and newborn size have been developed by a global team led by scientists. Now, for the first time, all 120 million babies born each year across the world can be assessed using a common set of standards, reflecting how babies should grow when mothers have adequate health, nutrition, medical care and socioeconomic status.

The first international standards for fetal growth and newborn size have been developed by a global team led by scientists from Oxford University.

The standards depict the desirable pattern of healthy growth for all babies everywhere, regardless of their ethnicity or country of birth. They provide 3rd, 10th, 50th, 90th and 97th centile curves for the growth of a baby during pregnancy (as measured by ultrasound) and for a baby’s size at birth according to gestational age (weight, length and head circumference).

Now, for the first time, all 120 million babies born each year across the world can be assessed using a common set of standards, reflecting how babies should grow when mothers have adequate health, nutrition, medical care and socioeconomic status.

This means it will be possible to detect underweight and overweight babies early in life no matter where in the world they are born.

‘Being able to identify millions of additional undernourished babies at birth provides an opportunity for them to receive nutritional support and targeted treatment, without which close to 5% are likely to die in their first year or develop severe, long-term health problems,’ says senior author Professor José Villar of Oxford University. ‘The huge improvement in health care we can achieve is unprecedented.’

At present, over 100 different, locally produced, growth charts are used around the world to assess fetal growth and newborn size. These only describe how babies grew in a particular population or region at a given time. International standards, on the other hand, describe what can be achieved with optimally healthy growth.

The researchers calculate that, each year, at least 13 million more newborns worldwide will be identified as being undernourished using their international standards. These babies are now considered ‘normal’, when local charts adapted for undernourished populations are used.

The INTERGROWTH-21st Project involved almost 60,000 pregnant women in eight well-defined urban areas in Brazil, China, India, Italy, Kenya, Oman, the UK and USA. From this very large number, over 4,600 healthy, well-nourished women with problem-free pregnancies were enrolled to construct the standards.
Ultrasound scans were performed every 5 weeks from early pregnancy (14 weeks’ gestation) to delivery to generate the first international standards for fetal growth. Identical methods and the same ultrasound machines provided by Philips Healthcare were used in all countries.

Measurements of weight, length, and head circumference for more than 20,000 babies born between 33 and 42 weeks’ gestation were used to generate the newborn standards.

This study design was the same approach taken by the WHO’s Multicentre Growth Reference Study of healthy infants and children, which established the international WHO Child Growth Standards, from 0 to 5 years of age, that are now used in more than 140 countries worldwide.”

Source: Science Daily – click here for the full article

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *