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Keywords:

  • birthweight;
  • placenta;
  • placental weight;
  • placental characteristics;
  • Collaborative Perinatal Project

Summary

Standard gross placental measures capture dimensions relevant to specific placental functions. Our objective was to determine their accountability independent of placental weight for variance in birthweight, an important proxy for intrauterine ‘adequacy’ in fetal origins studies. The sample consisted of 24 152 singleton liveborn children of the Collaborative Perinatal Project delivered from 34 to 42 completed weeks gestation, with complete data for six placental measures (placental disc shape, umbilical cord length, distance from cord insertion to nearest margin, large diameter, small diameter, placental thickness) and placental weight. Associations between birthweight and placental measures were examined using multiple linear regression. Placental weight alone accounted for 36.6% of birthweight variation; the six other placental measures accounted for 28.1%. Combined, all placental measures accounted for 39.1% of birthweight variation. Seven maternal characteristics (age, height, weight, parity, socio-economic status, cigarette use, and race) were investigated to determine whether their known associations with birthweight were mediated by placental markers. Analysis suggested that the impact of all maternal characteristics except smoking was consistent with mediation by placental characteristics.