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Abstract

Fetal ultrasound measurements were employed to investigate the relationship between weight and ponderal index at birth and kidney size during the second (23 weeks) and third (32 weeks) trimesters of pregnancy in a sample of 25 normally growing fetuses. Kidney volume and kidney volume / fetal weight ratio at 32 weeks are significantly and positively related to both weight and ponderal index at birth, controlling for sex, gestational age at birth, and day of ultrasound measurement. A second-degree polynomial relationship approximates the predictability of kidney volume fetal weight ratio at 23 weeks to that at 32 weeks, demonstrating shifting growth rates in fetal organ and body growth relationships during midgestation. Sex and parental size are suggested as contributing to these patterns. Females have a surge in renal growth between 23 and 32 weeks to catch up to earlier growing males, and maternal weight significantly predicts incremental growth in kidney volume and the kidney volume / fetal weight ratio at 32 weeks of gestation. The observation that fetuses relatively thin at birth have relatively smaller kidneys for their size in late gestation suggests that the influence of maternal weight on birth outcome may act through organ growth. Am. J. Hum. Biol. 14:398–406, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.