Racial/ethnic standards for fetal growth: The NICHD Fetal Growth Studies

Academic Article


  • Objective Fetal growth is associated with long-term health yet no appropriate standards exist for the early identification of undergrown or overgrown fetuses. We sought to develop contemporary fetal growth standards for 4 self-identified US racial/ethnic groups. Study Design We recruited for prospective follow-up 2334 healthy women with low-risk, singleton pregnancies from 12 community and perinatal centers from July 2009 through January 2013. The cohort comprised: 614 (26%) non-Hispanic whites, 611 (26%) non-Hispanic blacks, 649 (28%) Hispanics, and 460 (20%) Asians. Women were screened at 8w0d to 13w6d for maternal health status associated with presumably normal fetal growth (aged 18-40 years; body mass index 19.0-29.9 kg/m2; healthy lifestyles and living conditions; low-risk medical and obstetrical history); 92% of recruited women completed the protocol. Women were randomized among 4 ultrasonography schedules for longitudinal fetal measurement using the Voluson E8 (GE Healthcare, Milwaukee, WI). In-person interviews and anthropometric assessments were conducted at each visit; medical records were abstracted. The fetuses of 1737 (74%) women continued to be low risk (uncomplicated pregnancy, absent anomalies) at birth, and their measurements were included in the standards. Racial/ethnic-specific fetal growth curves were estimated using linear mixed models with cubic splines. Estimated fetal weight (EFW) and biometric parameter percentiles (5th, 50th, 95th) were determined for each gestational week and comparisons made by race/ethnicity, with and without adjustment for maternal and sociodemographic factors. Results EFW differed significantly by race/ethnicity >20 weeks. Specifically at 39 weeks, the 5th, 50th, and 95th percentiles were 2790, 3505, and 4402 g for white; 2633, 3336, and 4226 g for Hispanic; 2621, 3270, and 4078 g for Asian; and 2622, 3260, and 4053 g for black women (adjusted global P <.001). For individual parameters, racial/ethnic differences by order of detection were: humerus and femur lengths (10 weeks), abdominal circumference (16 weeks), head circumference (21 weeks), and biparietal diameter (27 weeks). The study-derived standard based solely on the white group erroneously classifies as much as 15% of non-white fetuses as growth restricted (EFW <5th percentile). Conclusion Significant differences in fetal growth were found among the 4 groups. Racial/ethnic-specific standards improve the precision in evaluating fetal growth.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Buck Louis GM; Grewal J; Albert PS; Sciscione A; Wing DA; Grobman WA; Newman RB; Wapner R; D'Alton ME; Skupski D
  • Start Page

  • 449.e1
  • End Page

  • 449.e41
  • Volume

  • 213
  • Issue

  • 4