IUGR: Small Baby

If your baby has been diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), it means he's smaller than expected for his gestational age. This is usually diagnosed by ultrasound testing. Sometimes the baby turns out to be just the right size after he's born, even though tests indicated he would be small.

There are times that the small size of your baby is expected. If you and your partner are small in stature, it makes sense that your baby will be smaller than other babies. But in a certain number of cases, this finding means your baby isn't developing as he should. Your doctor will want to figure out the cause behind this finding.

The baby may not be getting enough oxygen and nutrients. Or, as in a small number of IUGR cases, the baby may have a genetic defect that interferes with his development. Here are some common causes of IUGR:

Abnormal Placenta

*Placental abnormalities: the baby can't get enough oxygen and nutrients if the placenta has an abnormal form or is too small. In other cases the placenta may detach from the uterus (placenta abruptio) or may partially cover the cervix (placenta previa).

*Maternal medical conditions: high blood pressure, preeclampsia, kidney or heart disease, anemia, clotting disorders, diabetes, lung disease, or antiphospholipid antibody syndrome.

*Chromosomal abnormalities: birth defects, for instance anencephaly, Down syndrome, kidney or abdominal wall defects

Higher Multiples

*Twin or higher multiples

*Substance abuse, also smoking or drinking

*Maternal infections passed on to the gestating infant, for instance toxoplasmosis, rubella, syphilis, and CMV

Certain Anticonvulsants

*Medications, for instance, certain anticonvulsants

*Maternal malnutrition

*Underweight mothers

High Altitude

*The mother lives at a higher altitude

Research has shown that a baby who is born with a weight below the 5th percentile, and even more so if his weight is below the 3rd percentile, will be at a much higher risk for health issues. If the baby is diagnosed with IUGR and was born premature, his risk grows for both short and long-term complications. IUGR babies are also at risk for being stillborn.

Since IUGR babies have a hard time coping with labor, doctors often opt to deliver them by c-section. After the birth they tend to have low resistance to infection, low blood sugar, high red blood cell counts, and trouble maintaining their body temperatures. They also have a greater tendency for inhaling meconium (the baby's waste) while in utero or during the delivery and may be jaundiced.

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