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Fetal Growth Problems Resources from UPMC in Central Pa.

Fetal growth problems occur when your baby is not growing as expected and is too small or too large for his or her gestational age.

A baby’s size and weight depend on your lifestyle choices, environment and eating habits as well as on genetics.

Small babies are at increased risk of certain health problems, including lack of oxygen, low blood sugar, decreased blood flow, and motor and neurological disabilities, and can have trouble maintaining body temperature after birth. There are several factors that can cause intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), meaning that your baby is small for his or her gestational age, including:

  • Maternal weight of less than 100 pounds
  • Poor nutrition during pregnancy
  • Smoking, using drugs or drinking alcohol during pregnancy
  • Infections
  • Chromosomal or birth defects
  • High blood pressure
  • Placental abnormalities
  • Umbilical cord abnormalities
  • Low levels of amniotic fluid
  • Pregnancies with multiples such as twins or triplets

Large babies, sometimes associated with gestational diabetes, can cause complications during labor, as they may get stuck in the birthing canal during vaginal delivery. If pre-labor ultrasounds indicate a larger-than-normal baby, your physician may recommend a cesarean section or induce labor early to reduce the risk of complications during vaginal delivery.


Small-for-gestational-age and large-for-gestational-age babies rarely cause any noticeable symptoms for you. During your pregnancy your physician will monitor your baby’s growth by measuring your fundal height, or the distance from your pubic bone to the top of your uterus, and by taking measurements of the baby via ultrasound. Measurements that are smaller or larger than expected for your baby’s gestational age might indicate growth problems.


If your baby is diagnosed with fetal growth problems, your physician will monitor your baby’s growth and development closely using ultrasound exams and other tests. He or she will recommend measures that can be taken to minimize the health risks for you and your baby.

If your baby is too large, your physician may recommend a cesarean section or induce labor early. If you have gestational diabetes, managing your condition with diet and exercise may help you reduce the risk of having a larger baby.

If your baby is too small, your physician may recommend additional testing to determine whether your baby has health problems that require immediate treatment after birth.

Need more information?

Phone: 717-231-8472 

Talk to your doctor if you have questions about pregnancy complications.

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