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The magnitude rather than the rate of decline in fetal growth is a stronger risk factor for perinatal mortality in term infants

  • Mads Langager Larsen
    Affiliations
    Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark (Drs Larsen and Hoei-Hansen)

    Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Copenhagen University Hospital, Amager-Hvidovre, Hvidovre, Denmark (Drs Larsen and Krebs)

    Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

    Mater Research Institute, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (Dr Larsen, Ms Schreiber, and Dr Kumar)
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  • Veronika Schreiber
    Affiliations
    Mater Research Institute, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (Dr Larsen, Ms Schreiber, and Dr Kumar)

    Faculty of Medicine, Mater Mother's Hospital, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (Ms Schreiber and Dr Kumar)
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  • Lone Krebs
    Affiliations
    Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Copenhagen University Hospital, Amager-Hvidovre, Hvidovre, Denmark (Drs Larsen and Krebs)

    Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
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  • Christina Engel Hoei-Hansen
    Affiliations
    Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark (Drs Larsen and Hoei-Hansen)

    Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark
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  • Sailesh Kumar
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author: Sailesh Kumar, FRCS, FRCOG, FRANZCOG, DPhil (Oxon).
    Affiliations
    Mater Research Institute, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (Dr Larsen, Ms Schreiber, and Dr Kumar)

    Faculty of Medicine, Mater Mother's Hospital, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (Ms Schreiber and Dr Kumar)

    Centre for Maternal and Fetal Medicine, Mater Mother's Hospital, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (Dr Kumar)

    National Health and Medical Research Council, Centre for Research Excellence in Stillbirth, Mater Research Institute, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia (Dr Kumar)
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Published:October 20, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajogmf.2022.100780

      Highlights

      • Of note, ≥50th percentile fetal growth decline is associated with late fetal growth restrictions.
      • Of note, ≥50th percentile fetal growth decline is strongly associated with perinatal mortality.
      • The risk of fetal demise is related to the magnitude of decline and not the rate of decline.
      • Neonatal morbidity is not significantly associated with fetal growth decline.
      • The magnitude of fetal growth decline is important when determining the timing of birth.

      ABSTRACT

      BACKGROUND

      Prenatal diagnosis of an infant suspected of having fetal growth restriction is important because of its strong association with perinatal mortality and morbidity. The current Delphi consensus criteria include a decline of >50th percentiles in fetal growth when diagnosing late fetal growth restriction; however, the evidence underpinning this criterion is limited.

      OBJECTIVE

      This study aimed to analyze the relationships among the magnitude of decline in fetal growth and stillbirth, perinatal mortality, and adverse neonatal outcomes.

      STUDY DESIGN

      This cohort study of 15,861 pregnancies was conducted at the Mater Mother's Hospital in Brisbane, Australia. The decline in fetal growth was calculated as a drop in either estimated fetal weight or abdominal circumference percentiles between 2 ultrasound scans performed after 18 weeks of gestation. Relationships between declining fetal growth and the outcomes were, firstly, analyzed as a continuous variable and, if significant, further assessed with the rate of decline and different magnitudes of decline, compared to the referent category (change in growth of ±10 percentiles between scans). The 3 categories of growth decline were >10th to <25th percentiles, ≤25th to <50th percentiles, and ≥50th percentiles. Associations were analyzed by logistic regressions. The primary study outcomes were stillbirth and perinatal mortality (composite of stillbirth and neonatal death). The secondary outcomes were birth of a small-for-gestational-age infant (birthweight of <10th percentile for gestation), emergency cesarean delivery for nonreassuring fetal status, and composite severe neonatal morbidity.

      RESULTS

      The risks of stillbirth and perinatal mortality increased significantly by 2.6% (0.4%–4.6%) and 2.8% (1.0%–4.5%), respectively, per 1 percentile decline in fetal growth. In addition, the odds of stillbirth (adjusted odds ratio, 3.68 (1.32–10.24) and perinatal mortality (4.44) (1.82–10.84)) compared to the referent group were significantly increased only when the decline was ≥50th percentiles, regardless of birthweight. Furthermore, none of the primary outcomes were significantly associated with the rate of growth decline. The risk of a small-for-gestational-age infant increased by 2.4% (2.2%–2.7%) for every percentile decline. Conversely, reduced fetal growth was not associated with emergency cesarean delivery for nonreassuring fetal status or severe neonatal morbidity.

      CONCLUSION

      Our results supported the use of a ≥50th percentile decline in fetal growth as a criterion for identifying infants at risk of late fetal growth restriction. This cutoff also identified fetuses at high risk of perinatal mortality, regardless of birthweight and rate of growth decline. Our findings may guide obstetrical practice by alerting clinicians to the importance of incorporating the magnitude of fetal growth decline into antenatal counseling and decisions regarding the timing of birth.

      Key words

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