Turns out size does matter—at least when it comes to your due date.
A new study from the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center Ohio Collaborative found that a mother's height helps shape the fetal environment, influencing the length of pregnancy and whether or not a baby is premature. A baby's birth length and weight, however, have less to do with fetal environment, influenced instead by transmitted genes.
"Our finding shows that a mother's height has a direct impact on how long her pregnancy lasts," says Louis Muglia, MD, PhD, of the Ohio Collaborative. "The explanation for why this happens is unclear but could depend not only on unknown genes but also on woman's lifetime of nutrition and her environment."
To conduct the study, researchers looked at 3,485 Nordic women and their babies.
"The innovative, team-based model of our prematurity research centers is critical to understanding the unknown causes or preterm birth. This new finding adds one small piece toward solving the much larger puzzle of preterm birth," says March of Dimes President Dr. Jennifer L. Howse.
About 450,000 babies are born premature in the US each year. And science is improving their outcomes by leaps and bounds. Last year, researchers determined the hormone EPO could help boost preemies' brains. And a recent study cracked down on which tests babies in the NICU actually need.