National Standard for Normal Fetal Growth study expands

National Standard for Normal Fetal Growth study expands

stock photo of twin baby girls
Christiana Care is an ideal place to study the growth patterns of twins. About 150 pairs of twins are born here each year. (stock photo)

Christiana Care is the top recruiter of expectant mothers in the country in a landmark study on fetal growth throughout pregnancy.

In launching the second phase of the National Standard for Normal Fetal Growth study, Christiana Care is again playing a leading role, expanding the research to include twins.

“Our research will tell us if twins grow differently than singletons,” said Anthony Sciscione, D.O., director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and the principal investigator. “Or, if they don’t grow the same, we can learn at what point they develop differently.”

The first phase of the study focused on expectant mothers ages 18-40 who do not have such risk factors as smoking, substance abuse or obesity. Phase 2 also will focus on healthy moms who do not have risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes, which can impact fetal growth.

Dr. Sciscione noted that Christiana Care is ideally suited to the study, delivering more twins than any other hospital in the Mid-Atlantic region—typically about 150 sets of twins each year.

The study is funded by a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The data gleaned from the research will allow doctors to better interpret the results of ultrasound tests, as well as establish more accurate standards for fetal growth that take into account the ethnicity and gender of the baby. For example, babies of Asian ethnicity tend to be smaller. Boys are typically larger than girls. Identifying babies who are smaller than the norm for their gender and ethnicity could help doctors to pinpoint problems such as infections and genetic abnormalities.

In Phase 1 of the National Standard for Normal Fetal Growth study, Christiana Care enrolled more than 200 women, becoming the top recruiter in the United States. Getting the word out to patients required a proactive, multipronged approach, said Stephanie Lynch, OB/GYN research manager and study coordinator. The initiative included newsletters to doctors, distributing brochures at clinics and doctors’ offices, and face-to-face contact with moms-to-be.

“We talk to the patients when they are having their first trimester screening,” Lynch said. “Very rarely do we get parents who are not interested in learning more about their babies.”

As an incentive, expectant moms and dads receive a series of state-of-the-art, four-dimensional ultrasound images of their babies in the womb.

“They get lots of really neat pictures of their fetuses, which would not otherwise be available during the course of a normal pregnancy,” Dr. Sciscione said. “We have found that parents get a lot of pleasure looking at their babies, especially with these advanced sonographic techniques.”