During pregnancy, most babies will grow at a remarkable rate. When a fetus measures small for their gestational age, the condition is known as intrauterine growth restriction or IUGR. When a baby is diagnosed with IUGR, they may be described as small for gestational age as well. A fetus that has been diagnosed with intrauterine growth restriction normally weighs less than 90% of all other fetuses that are the same gestational age.
Intrauterine growth restriction occurs when the cells and tissue can not grow. This usually happens when the baby does not receive the proper amount of nutrients or oxygen that is needed for growth and development. IUGR can be diagnosed at any point during the pregnancy. Doctors diagnose IUGR in a variety of ways. During prenatal visits, caregivers measure the height of the fundus. The measurement usually corresponds with the week of pregnancy after the 20th week. If the measurement is low, IUGR may be suspected. Ultrasound examinations are often used to accurately estimate a baby's size.
A baby with IUGR will be thin and is often born with pale, loose skin that may be dry. Many babies with IUGR will look malnourished at birth, but not all will appear that way. Usually the babies umbilical cord is thin and dull in color rather than thick and shiny. It is not uncommon for babies to be born with low oxygen levels and low Apgar scores. Babies that have IUGR may also suffer from low blood sugar and have a hard time regulating their body temperature. Babies that experience severe degrees of IUGR may be born stillborn or have long-term problems as life progresses.
There are a variety of causes for IUGR. Some babies will be born small because of genetics, but the majority of babies that are diagnosed with IUGR will have other reasons for the condition. Some common causes of IUGR are:
*HIgh blood pressure in the mother
*Kidney disease in the mother
*Malnutrition or an eating disorder
*Substance abuse (tobacco, drugs, alcohol)
*Insufficient blood flow to the uterus or placenta
The earlier that the problem is found, the more severe it will likely be. Pregnant women that are diagnosed with IUGR will be closely monitored and additional tests and procedures will be done. Nonstress tests, biophysical profiles, ultrasound exams and doppler flow studies are all used to monitor for potential problems that IUGR can cause.
Although there are some things that women can do to decrease the risks of IUGR, there is no absolute prevention. Avoiding alcohol, drugs and tobacco are suggested. Quality prenatal care and good nutrition is crucial to the development of a fetus. There is no cure for intrauterine growth restriction. Quality nutrition, bedrest and possible delivery are the main treatments for IUGR. With the advancement of medical technology, sometimes it is best for the baby to be delivered early.
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