Intra uterine-growth retardation (IUGR) occurs when a baby does not grow in size appropriately during pregnancy; the baby is too small. This can be a serious development because when the baby's weight is low, the risk of problems increases. Research has shown that a previous delivery of a growth-retarded infant makes it more likely to happen again in later pregnancies.
The word "retardation" causes some people some concern. Retardation in this sense does not apply to the development or function of the baby's brain. It does not mean the baby will be mentally retarded. It means the growth and size of the fetus are inappropriately small; growth and size are considered to be retarded or slowed.
Many conditions increase the chance of IUGR, including the following:
smoking by the mother-to-be during pregnancy
poor weight gain by the mother-to-be
vascular disease in the mother-to-be, including high blood pressure
kidney disease in the mother-to-be
alcoholism or drug abuse by the pregnant woman
infections in the fetus
abnormalities in the umbilical cord or the placenta
small size of mother-to-be (probably not a cause for alarm)
The doctor usually discovers this problem by watching the growth of your uterus for a period of time and finding no change. If you measure 10.8 inches (27.4cm) at 27 weeks of pregnancy, and at 31 weeks you measure only 11 inches (28cm), your doctor might become concerned about IUGR. This is another good reason to keep all your prenatal appointments.
If IUGR is diagnosed, your doctor will advise you to avoid anything that can make it worse. Stop smoking. Stop using drugs or alcohol. Eat nutritiously. Bed rest may be prescribed. This allows your baby to receive the best blood flow from you and thus to receive as much nutrition as possible.
The greatest risk associated with IUGR is stillbirth (death of the baby before delivery). To avoid this, it may be necessary to deliver the baby before full term. The baby may be safer outside the uterus than inside. Because infants with IUGR may not tolerate labor well, the possibility of a C-section increases.