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Hum Biol. 2000 Aug;72(4):641-54.

The relationship between maternal and offspring birth weights after maternal prenatal famine exposure: the Dutch Famine Birth Cohort Study.

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Department of International Health, Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA.


We examined the impact of famine-induced changes in maternal birth weight (MBW) on the association between MBW and offspring birth weight (OBW). Women born before, during, and after the Dutch Famine of 1944-1945 were interviewed at ages 41 to 46 years. Women (n = 582) and their children (n = 1,111) were included in the analysis if both mother and child were singleton and the child was not delivered preterm. Mean birth weight (BW) of women with first-trimester exposure (n = 110) was 154 g higher (p = 0.008), and mean BW of women with third-trimester exposure (n = 138) was 251 g lower (p < 0.001) than mean BW of unexposed women (n = 302). First-born offspring of women with first-trimester exposure were 72 g heavier (95% confidence interval [CI], -57 to 201; p = 0.27), and offspring of women with third-trimester exposure were 43 g lighter (95% CI, -170 to 79; p = 0.47) than offspring of unexposed women. Among unexposed women, each 100 g increase in MBW was associated with 25 g (95% CI, 12 to 37) increase in OBW (adjusted for maternal age, smoking, weight, and height and offspring sex). This association was attenuated in famine-exposed women (first-trimester change in OBW = 20 g per 100 g MBW; 95% CI, -1 to 41; third-trimester change in OBW = 14 g per 100 g MBW; 95% CI, -9 to 37). When MBW and trimester of maternal famine exposure were considered in a joint model, there was no independent effect of trimester of maternal famine exposure on OBW. Associations were less consistent for later-born offspring. We conclude that maternal prenatal famine exposure does not affect the association between maternal and offspring BW. Trimester of exposure was not a determinant of OBW, other than through its effect on MBW. Nevertheless, acute famine may impact on second-generation BW distributions indirectly, through its effect on the distribution of MBW.

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