Fetal growth patterns in pregnancy-associated hypertensive disorders: NICHD Fetal Growth Studies

Julio Mateus*, Roger B. Newman, Cuilin Zhang, Sarah J. Pugh, Jagteshwar Grewal, Sungduk Kim, William A. Grobman, John Owen, Anthony C. Sciscione, Ronald J. Wapner, Daniel Skupski, Edward Chien, Deborah A. Wing, Angela C. Ranzini, Michael P. Nageotte, Nicole Gerlanc, Paul S. Albert, Katherine L. Grantz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Background: Fetal growth patterns in pregnancy-associated hypertensive disorders is poorly understood because prospective longitudinal data are lacking. Objective: The objective of the study was to compare longitudinal fetal growth trajectories between normotensive women and those with pregnancy-associated hypertensive disorders. Study Design: This is a study based on data from a prospective longitudinal cohort study of fetal growth performed at 12 US sites (2009–2013). Project gestational age was confirmed by ultrasound between 8 weeks 0 days and 13 weels 6 days, and up to 6 ultrasounds were performed across gestation. Hypertensive disorders were diagnosed based on 2002 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines and grouped hierarchically as severe preeclampsia (including eclampsia or HELLP [hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count] syndrome), mild preeclampsia, severe gestational hypertension, mild gestational hypertension, or unspecified hypertension. Women without any hypertensive disorder constituted the normotensive group. Growth curves for estimated fetal weight and individual biometric parameters including biparietal diameter, head circumference, abdominal circumference, and femur and humerus length were calculated for each group using linear mixed models with cubic splines. Global and weekly pairwise comparisons were performed between women with a hypertensive disorder compared with normotensive women to analyze differences while adjusting for confounding variables. Delivery gestational age and birthweights were compared among groups. Results: Of 2462 women analyzed, 2296 (93.3%) were normotensive, 63 (2.6%) had mild gestational hypertension, 54 (2.2%) mild preeclampsia, 32 (1.3%) severe preeclampsia, and 17 (0.7%) unspecified hypertension. Compared with normotensive women, those with severe preeclampsia had estimated fetal weights that were reduced between 22 and 38 weeks (all weekly pairwise values of P < .008). Women with severe preeclampsia compared with those without hypertension also had significantly smaller fetal abdominal circumference between 23–31 and 33–37 weeks’ gestation (weekly pairwise values of P < .04). Scattered weekly growth differences were noted on other biometric parameters between these 2 groups. The consistent differences in estimated fetal weight and abdominal circumference were not observed between women with other hypertensive disorders and those who were normotensive. Women with severe preeclampsia delivered significantly earlier (mean gestational age 35.9 ± 3.2 weeks) than the other groups (global P < .0001). Birthweights in the severe preeclampsia group were also significantly lower (mean –949.5 g [95% confidence interval, –1117.7 to –781.2 g]; P < .0001) than in the normotensive group. Conclusion: Among women with pregnancy-associated hypertensive disorders, only those destined to develop severe preeclampsia demonstrated a significant and consistent difference in fetal growth (ie, smaller estimated fetal weight and abdominal circumference) when compared with normotensive women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)635.e1-635.e16
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • biometric parameters
  • fetal growth trajectory
  • gestational hypertension
  • preeclampsia
  • pregnancy-associated hypertensive disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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