IUGR-When Baby Is Too Small

When fetal weight is below the 10th percentile in weight for his or her age (in weeks), the baby is diagnosed as suffering with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). The diagnosis is made through an ultrasound. The condition is also referred to as small-for gestational age (SGA), fetal growth restriction or, as it was previously called, intrauterine growth retardation. All of this is to say that the baby is not as big as a normal sized baby for that portion of the pregnancy.

What Causes IUGR?

A number of different factors that include genetic issues or birth defects in the baby can cause IUGR, as can pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH), problems with the placenta, and infection. Additional causes may be maternal illnesses, prescribed medications, the use of cigarettes, drugs, and/or alcohol while pregnant, maternal weight under 100 pounds or poor nutrition during pregnancy.

As many of the causes of IUGR are beyond the control of the woman, it is important for her to get proper prenatal care, eat well, and avoid situations where there is danger of toxic overload for either mother or baby. Factors that are in the mother's control, such as cigarettes smoking, recreational drugs and alcohol use, and diet and exercise habits, should be addressed before conception in order to provide the safest and healthiest pregnancy possible.

The Risks To The Baby

Small babies are at risk for many problems, some of which are life threatening and can remain with the child for a long time. Difficulty in breathing right after birth, the inability to stay warm, and immune and blood sugar issues are but some of the problems an underweight baby may have to endure. The greatest risk for an IUGR baby, depending upon the degree of the IUGR and the reason for it, is stillbirth.

How Do I Know If The Baby Has IUGR?

Typically, IUGR is discovered during routine prenatal examination, as the doctor measures fundal height (the growing uterus) at every visit from the 20 weeks gestation mark. If there is a discrepancy of more than two weeks, further investigation should be made. An ultrasound, to determine fetal weight and growth is usually done. Even though it is difficult to determine the weight through an ultrasound, it does present an opportunity for the doctor to assess the placenta and the baby for any issues that may be apparent. Ultrasound is also a good way to check amniotic fluid to determine if there is either too much or too little in the uterus. This is another indication for fetal health.

How Is It Treated?

If the baby does have a growth issue, then frequent monitoring, more prenatal visits, perhaps more ultrasounds, bed rest or non-stress tests will be required. It may or may not require more intervention. Sometimes early delivery is recommended and if the baby is deemed too weak to sustain labor, then a caesarean section is performed. Unless the baby is extremely premature, a normal hospital stay is most likely.

Sometimes babies are just smaller than average. It may be genetics, or it may just be this particular baby. It is good to know that if a baby has IUGR, it does not mean the next pregnancy will be the same. With good controls in place, a normal pregnancy and birth can follow an IUGR.

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