When a fetus isn’t growing as expected during pregnancy, and the fetal weight is less than 90 percent of the average of all developing babies, doctors call this Intrauterine Growth Restriction or IUGR. There are few direct remedies, but a careful doctor will practice regular fetal growth monitoring and, in some cases, plan for early delivery of the baby.
Doctors refer to two types of IUGR, depending on fetal development. Symmetric or ‘primary’ IUGR is where all the baby’s body parts are very small. As many as 30 percent of cases are primary IUGR. The other case is called asymmetric or ‘secondary’ IUGR, where just the abdomen area of the baby is seen to be small, while the head and brain are developing to the size that the doctors would expect. Up to 70 percent of cases or more are asymmetric IUGR.
One measurement to detect IUGR is the distance from the top of the uterus to the top of the pubic bone. Doctors regularly perform ultrasound exams during a woman’s pregnancy, using high-frequency waves to see an image of the baby on a screen. A doctor’s office will also track the mother’s weight throughout the pregnancy to gauge the weight of the developing baby.
Doctors might perform more specific tests such as:
Doctors are concerned when they diagnose IUGR because there is a chance that the fetus is not receiving enough nutrition and is undernourished. Medical problems that can lead to this include issues like:
In some cases, a doctor might induce labor if it seems that the fetal growth has stopped, or there might be problems with blood flow through the umbilical cord or an issue with the placenta. In many cases, a cesarean section delivery, called a C-section, is recommended if the doctor believes that vaginal delivery could be stressful and dangerous for the baby.
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