Slow Fetal Growth During Pregnancy: Possible Reasons, Risks and Diagnosis

5 min read

Written by Pradeep


Slow Fetal Growth During Pregnancy

Pregnancy is the most precious time in every woman’s life. It brings joy and happiness in one’s life. No matter whether you wait for months or it comes as a surprise.

This is time to take better care of your body and most importantly care for your and baby’s health and nourishment. Having said that, let us understand various stages of fetal growth.

In This Article

What is Slow Fetal Growth?

As you confirm pregnancy, you notice many changes in your body, habits, mood etc. Each change prepares you for childbirth and is the sign of growth of your baby. A mother and a healthcare provider both have to keep track of mother’s weight and baby’s growth. Folic acid, Iron, minerals, calcium, multi vitamins are the key nutrients required during this period. A baby gets all these required nutrients from mother through placenta. Placenta is a pipe like organ which connects mother and baby to provide oxygen and nutrients to baby to grow and removes waste from baby. Problem with placenta affects baby’s growth.

1. Slow Growth of Fetus in First Trimester

In the first trimester the size of fetus is equal to a grain of rice. During this period, you cannot see the growth, but still fetus is growing and it is very critical time because major organs develop in this period. The time is for beginning of brains, spinal cord, lungs, heart, eyes and ears. Lack of nutrients and proper attention can lead slow growth of baby. Moreover the hormonal changes affect the mother’s body. Morning sickness, vomiting result in lack of nutrients in mother’s body and slows down the growth of baby during this period.

2. Slow Growth of Fetus in Second Trimester

Mother gets the previous body back and feels more fresh and energetic then first trimester. These three months are easiest and the best time to concentrate on mother and child’s growth. Some of the problems a pregnant woman can face during this trimester are backache, breast enlargement, discharge, frequent urination, headache etc., it will not affect the baby’s growth more, but if baby is not getting proper nutrients and is weak from first trimester than it will show slow growth in this trimester also.  In this trimester baby has developed all the internal and external organs, so proper growth can be properly examined.

3. Slow Fetal Growth During Third Trimester

During this period the child’s physical development takes place. Most vitamins, proteins and nutrients are required for improved birth weight and brain development. Lack of healthy diet, proper rest, unhealthy habits and unhealthy lifestyle could lead to slow growth and result in many delivery problems and after birth problems.

[Read : Placenta Accreta – Pregnancy Complication]

What Can Cause Poor Fetal Growth?

pregnant women seeing fetal development

Fetal growth is set before pregnancy, which is modified by the condition throughout the pregnancy. The causes for poor fetal could be:

  • Low maternal weight
  • Undernourished mother
  • Maternal smoking
  • Infection
  • History of small babies / pregnancy disorders
  • Heart disease and diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Problems related to placenta

[Read : Placenta Previa Bleeding in Pregnancy]

What Are the Symptoms?

One can check baby’s weight only through the mother’s weight. If mother is not gaining according to stage of pregnancy and uterus is smaller than it should be than chances are that baby is not gaining weight.

How is Slow Fetal Growth Diagnosed?

The gynecologist checks whether the baby gaining weight or not. For this, ultrasound scan is best way. Through this we can know the correct size and age of baby. Sometimes uterus can be smaller because wrong estimate of pregnancy dates. Once the health care provider gets sure of slow weight gain of baby in womb, blood test is done to check any

  • Genetic  problem
  • Infection
  • Other medical problem

Gynecologist suggest regular ultrasound scan during pregnancy. No. Of ultrasound differ according to trimester of pregnancy, but at least 2 scan are done in the last month to check

  • Baby’s growth and health
  • If uterus has enough amniotic fluid
  • Blood flow is normal

A health care provider should also check the heartbeat rate as baby moves. So, the correct reason for slow growth can be examined.

What is IUGR?

Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) is a condition of an unborn in which the baby is smaller than it should be and not growing at a normal rate.

Due to slower growth many health problems can develop in baby and mother both at the time of pregnancy and after delivery too. IUGR can be easily identified by a doctor as the baby grow slower and look less nourished. Baby’s size can be examined by measuring the distance from pubic bone to fetus. Many other ways like ultrasound, regular weight check, fetal monitoring and Doppler flow can be used to compare fetal growth for identifying IUGR.

IUGR’s common cause is the problem with placenta. If baby in the womb is not getting required nutrients and oxygen from mother. Other than this, diabetes, high blood pressure, infection, kidney diseases, lung diseases, smoking and taking drugs also leads to IUGR.

[Read : Everything About Baby Kicks And Fetal Movements]

Prevention and Treatment For IUGR

IUGR can occur whether the mother is healthy or not. What a pregnant can do is lower the risk of IUGR and take better care of herself and baby for the safe child birth:

  • Be aware about your baby’s movement inside the womb. Irregular or slow moves can be the problem.
  • Don’t take any medication without your doctor’s prescription. If you are taking medicine continuously for a disease like diabetes, high blood pressures then consult your doctor first.
  • Never skip your visit to doctor and take your appointment list as you get regular check up. Detection of problem is half of treatment. And early you find the problem, early you will get treated.
  • Stop smoking, drinking alcohol for your child health.
  • Rest more and be stress free.
  • Work less or stop working. You have to be in bed more. Rest will help your child to grow.
  • Take healthy diet. Take your diet plan from your dietician and follow it properly.

If baby has developed some lungs or heart related problems, doctor can suggest early delivery. And treatment for better breathe can be given after birth. Awareness and paying complete attention can help you to treat IUGR. Keep yourself hydrated and stay confident and healthy throughout pregnancy.

Read Also: 8 Possible Causes Of Slow Fetal Growth


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