What is Fetal Growth Restriction?
Fetal growth restriction (FGR) is when a baby does not grow as expected and is smaller than normal at the mother’s current stage of pregnancy. In some cases, fetal growth restriction may be mild and not cause any long-term problems. In more severe cases, the baby may be negatively affected both before and after birth. The severity of the problems that occur also depends on how severe the growth restriction is and when during the pregnancy it starts.
What are the Complications of Fetal Growth Restriction?
Fetal growth restriction can lead to several complications that can affect a baby both while they are still in the womb and after they are delivered. These can include:
- Low birth weight
- Low oxygen levels while in the womb
- A high level of distress during labor and delivery
- Increased risk for cesarean delivery due to fetal intolerance of labor
- Increased risk of infections after birth
- Higher risk of long-term growth problems and metabolic disease
What are the Causes of Fetal Growth Restriction?
FGR often occurs because the fetus does not get enough nutrients and nourishment while in the womb. Fetal growth restriction can happen in a perfectly healthy mother. Generally, the odds of your baby having a low birth weight increase if you are in poor health. FGR can occur due to issues with either the placenta or the blood flow in the umbilical cord. Some of the causes of fetal growth restriction include:
- Chronic diseases that affect the mother’s heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, or blood
- Cigarette smoking or substance abuse
- Exposure to certain medications
- Infections that can get passed to the baby (ex: cytomegalovirus or rubella)
- Birth defects
- Chromosome or genetic abnormalities
- Multiple births (such as twins or triplets)
- Placental issues (small size, abnormal blood flow, masses)
- Placental abruption
- An abnormally-shaped uterus
How is Fetal Growth Restriction Diagnosed in NJ?
There are not many symptoms of fetal growth restriction beyond the baby being small for their gestational age. If FGR is present, the baby’s estimated weight will be below the 10th percentile. FGR is often diagnosed through prenatal ultrasound, with the ultrasound images helping the doctor to estimate the baby’s size and weight. Consistent tracking of your baby’s growth allows your doctor to identify problems with growth early on. Ultrasounds can also be used to identify problems with the placenta and the blood flow through the umbilical cord, as these types of problems can lead to fetal growth restriction. In some cases, additional tests will be performed, such as fetal monitoring, infection screening for the mother, and amniocentesis to check for potential genetic causes of FGR.
How Can Fetal Growth Restriction Be Prevented?
Although fetal growth restriction can affect any pregnancy, even when a mother is perfectly healthy, there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk. Prevention tips that you may be advised to take include:
- Attend all prenatal appointments, as this growth restriction can be remedied if caught early enough.
- Check the medications you are taking, as they could potentially lead to health problems in the unborn baby. Your doctor will let you know if you should stop taking any of your medications during your pregnancy.
- Keep your body well-nourished, as proper nutrition is essential to having a healthy baby.
- Make sure you get enough sleep each night and rest during the day as well.
- Stop drinking alcohol and smoking, as these habits can lead to low birth weight.
Some steps can be taken in cases of a baby not growing appropriately in the womb. The easiest method to resolve this is to improve the nutrition of the mother. Simple diet and lifestyle changes in this area are beneficial for both the mother and baby, in both low and high-risk pregnancies. In the most severe cases of fetal growth problems, delivery might be induced early, because the baby’s health could be in danger if they remain in the womb.