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Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2009 Dec;23(6):871-80. doi: 10.1016/j.bpobgyn.2009.06.005. Epub 2009 Jul 26.

Neonatal management and long-term sequelae.

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Perinatal Medicine, Royal Maternity Hospital, and Department of Child Health, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland.


Intrauterine or fetal growth restriction is best defined by using customised birth weight percentiles based upon the growth potential for an individual infant. Growth restriction in utero may be classified as asymmetric or symmetric depending upon the duration of the process. Asymmetric growth restriction is caused by placental insufficiency, maternal hypertensive conditions, long-standing maternal diabetes, smoking, living at altitude or multiple gestation. Symmetric growth restriction may be due to congenital infections, chromosomal or other abnormalities, fetal alcohol syndrome, low socioeconomic status or be constitutional. The underlying cause of growth restriction often predicts the potential adverse effects on the foetus and newborn and later effects in childhood and adulthood. With placental insufficiency, there may be chronic or acute on chronic fetal hypoxia with birth asphyxia and hypothermia, neonatal hypoglycaemia, polycythaemia and coagulopathy. Management is directed at prevention or early treatment of these conditions. In contrast, symmetrically growth-restricted infants should be examined carefully to look for congenital infections and malformations that may need specific interventions. Infants with constitutional short stature generally do not need any specific management. Feeding of growth-restricted infants is important to overcome deficiencies incurred in utero. Most infants show catch-up growth although about 10% do not. Those with excessive catch-up growth may be at greatest risk of developing insulin resistance in adulthood leading to diabetes, obesity and heart disease. The so-called fetal origins of disease may actually have a postnatal onset related more to excessive weight gain in infancy. There is still controversy over the indications for growth hormone treatment in growth-restricted infants who remain of short stature in early childhood. Intrauterine growth restriction is also associated with a five- to seven-fold increased risk of cerebral palsy probably due to chronic placental insufficiency.

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