Short Women Have Shorter Pregnancies

A new study that is coming out of the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center Ohio Collaborative is showing that shorter mothers have shorter pregnancies, also smaller babies, and are at a higher risk for a premature babies. The study found that the height of the mother directly has influence on the risk of preterm birth.

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The researchers looked at 3.485 Nordic women and their infants, and they found out that maternal height helped shape the fetal environment. Maternal height is influenced by genetic factors and this also helped shape the length of the pregnancy and also the frequency of premature babies. The birth length and birth weight are often influenced by transmitted genes, so there is definitely two different things that go into the overall fetal development. In terms of the number one killer of babies in the United States, premature birth is the number one killer, and there are gaps between the ethnic and racial groups. Over 450,000 babies in the United States are born too early, and the preterm birth rate is worse than many other high-resource countries, according to the March of Dimes. Throughout the world, there are 15 million babies that are born prematurely, and more than 1 million of these babies die from the early birth complications. Some of the babies that live end up with lifelong health problems, such as vision loss, cerebral palsy, mental delays, breathing problems, and jaundice. One of the biggest goals of the March of Dimes is to identify the genes that help govern the fetal growth and length of pregnancy. A woman’s height does influence gestational length, but this is independent of the genes that she passed on which determine the size of the fetus.

The findings of this study show that there is a direct impact on how long the mother’s pregnancy lasts based on her height, and it’s still unclear as to why this is happening. This could be due to the environment and nutrition of the woman throughout her life or it could be due to unknown genes, but more research in the future hopefully can show the clear cause of why or how the woman’s height impacts the gestation of the woman’s pregnancy. At this point, it does not matter why, only that it is happening, and the researchers want women of smaller stature to be aware of these effects that their height can have on their baby. If a woman is more aware of what might be awaiting her if she is short, then she might choose to get pregnant sooner in life, which can also cut down on the number of risks that come with pregnancy, such as delivering a baby with mental handicaps or other physical handicaps. A shorter woman also might be more likely to watch what she is eating or doing in terms of how long she continues to work after her pregnancy if she knows she is basically at a high risk for having a premature baby with possible health problems. It could really benefit women of all ages if they are short to know this new information so that they could better make health decisions and plan out their pregnancy a little better, and it could also lead to the woman getting more check ups and prenatal care. In terms of what kills babies the most in this country, since premature births are the biggest killer, it is important that more women find ways to limit situations and activities in their environment during their pregnancy, especially if they are in this high risk group, and this includes not drinking, smoking or doing other things that could be associated with premature birth as well.

The researchers say that more studies are going to be done in terms of what genes might be responsible for making this happen, and more studies are going to happen to find out everything they can as to why premature births happen. If we can get a better handle on what influences premature births and what genes or other factors are involved, then it could also lead to a better immediate treatment for the baby once the baby is born, which could mean giving birth in a hospital that is more equipped to deal with premature babies, like Children’s Hospitals that are all over the country. The researchers also said that more funding is needed to continue digging into why premature births happen, and that more awareness needs to be raised about this issue.


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Jeanne Rose lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has been a freelance writer since 2010. She took Allied Health in vocational school where she earned her CNA/PCA, and worked in a hospital for 3 years. Jeanne enjoys writing about science, health, politics, business, and other topics as well.