Pregnancy screening for baby growth

Accurate assessment of the baby’s growth inside the uterus is one of the key aims of good antenatal care.

Problems such as the placenta not working as well as it should can develop unexpectedly and are linked with an increased risk to your baby. It is therefore essential that your baby’s growth is monitored carefully.

Fundal heightShow [+]Hide [-]

A fundal height measurement from 24-26 weeks onwards is taken at each antenatal visit and is the best first line assessment of your baby’s growth.

The measurement is recorded in centimetres from the top of the uterus to the top of the symphysis (pubic bone). This is then plotted on the chart in your hand held notes and over time these marks will form a curve. The slope of the curve should be similar to the slope of the curves already printed on your chart, which predict how your baby should be growing.

Growth problemsShow [+]Hide [-]

Slow growth is one of the most common problems that can affect a baby in the uterus. If the fundal height measurements suggest that there might be a problem we will arrange for an ultrasound scan to estimate the size of the baby. These measurements are then plotted on a chart to identify whether the baby is small for the gestational age (SGA). SGA babies may be small and healthy (because not all babies are destined to be the same size) or may be small because they are growth restricted (their normal growth is being hindered in some way).

Growth problems are usually a result of the placenta not working properly and using doppler ultrasound we are able to demonstrate how well the placenta is managing the blood supply to the baby. Although more accurate than fundal height measurements, ultrasound scan can still over-estimate or under-estimate the size of your baby. It is still, however, the best way to provide an approximate weight of your baby before birth.

Large for datesShow [+]Hide [-]

Sometimes the fundal height measurements indicate that the growth curve is steep and the baby is thought to be larger than expected. If this is the case your midwife will arrange a check of your glucose (sugar) level. If this is normal then no further action is needed until 39 weeks when, if the baby is still thought to be large a growth scan is arranged to help plan the final stage of the pregnancy.

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