Mother’s health more rel­e­vant than eth­nic­ity for new­born’s size

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Ac­cord­ing to a new study led by Ox­ford Univer­sity re­searchers, growth of ba­bies in the womb and their size at birth, es­pe­cially their length, are strik­ingly sim­i­lar the world over – when ba­bies are born to healthy, ed­u­cated and well-nour­ished moth­ers. The study in­volved al­most 60,000 preg­nan­cies in eight de­fined ur­ban ar­eas in In­dia, China, Brazil, Italy, Kenya, Oman, the United States and Bri­tain. The re­searchers noted that less than four per cent of the to­tal dif­fer­ence in foetal growth and birth size could be at­trib­uted to race and eth­nic­ity in the eight stud­ied ar­eas. Sci­en­tists had ear­lier sug­gested that race and eth­nic­ity were the two most vi­tal fac­tors in de­ter­min­ing the size of a baby at birth.

“Cur­rently we are not all equal at birth. But we can be,” said the lead au­thor pro­fes­sor Jose Vil­lar from Univer­sity of Ox­ford in Bri­tain. “We can cre­ate a sim­i­lar start for all by mak­ing sure moth­ers are ed­u­cated and nour­ished, by treat­ing in­fec­tion and by pro­vid­ing ad­e­quate an­te­na­tal care,” he added.

The re­searchers car­ried out ul­tra­sound scans from early preg­nancy to de­liv­ery to mea­sure ba­bies’ bone growth in the womb, us­ing iden­ti­cal meth­ods in all coun­tries and the same ul­tra­sound ma­chines. They also mea­sured the length and head cir­cum­fer­ence of all ba­bies at birth. If moth­ers’ ed­u­ca­tional, health and nu­tri­tional sta­tus and care dur­ing preg­nancy are equally good, ba­bies will have equal chances of healthy growth in the womb and future good health. The find­ings give cre­dence to the cho­rus call­ing for in­ter­na­tional stan­dards to eval­u­ate foetal growth and new­born size. Foetal growth and new­born size are cur­rently eval­u­ated in clin­ics around the world us­ing at least 100 dif­fer­ent growth charts.

The study find­ings were pub­lished in the jour­nal The Lancet, Di­a­betes & En­docrinol­ogy.

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