One Question Could Help Doctors Learn More About Prenatal Health

It can even help predict baby's birth weight.
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ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Feb 2018
Woman waiting at a doctor's office
Photo: Frederic Cirou/Getty Images

It may seem counterintuitive, but a single question is helping healthcare providers take a more comprehensive look at maternal and newborn health. It boils down to incorporating fertility history into prenatal checkups: “Have you ever been sexually active for a year or more without using contraception and becoming pregnant?”

According to a new study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, pregnant women who answer “yes” to that question tend to have shorter pregnancies and smaller babies.

“We undertook this study to improve our understanding of parental health status, infertility treatment, and the health status of future generations,” says lead study author Germaine M. Buck Louis, PhD, MS, of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “To our knowledge, this is the first study to include infertility in the context of other chronic diseases. Our findings suggest that infertility and chronic diseases may have long-lasting implications for infant health outcomes.”

To conduct their study, researchers used data from the Upstate KIDS Study, which was specifically designed to assess couples’ reproductive health and infant outcomes. They found that infertility was the medical condition most consistently associated with smaller birth size. Among mothers who responded that yes, they had once been sexually active for at least a year without birth control, yet had not conceived, newborns weighed an average of 2.19 ounces less than babies born to moms who hadn’t experienced infertility. Those babies were also 0.33 centimeters shorter.

The takeaway? Infertility is an important thing to consider when evaluating maternal health and fetal growth. And a simple question can help estimate birth weight.

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