Aetiology and classification of small for gestational age infants


  • MJ O'Callaghan, MB, BS, FRACP, MSc, Director of Developmental and Rehabilitation Services. JM Harvey BEd, GradDipLibSci, Research Officer. DI Tudehope, MB, BS, MRACP, FRACP, Director of Neonatology. PH Gray, MD, FRCPI, DCH. Deputy Director of Neonatology.

MJ O'Callaghan Department of Paediatrics, Mater Misericordiae Children's Hospital, South Brisbane, QLD 4101, Australia.


Objective: To determine important aetiological factors in small gestational age (SGA) infants and the effectiveness of anthropometric indexes in identifying patterns of growth retardation.

Methodology: Eighty-four SGA infants and 81 controls were enrolled. Maternal biological, lifestyle and psychosocial factors were compared for the total group and the term Caucasian subset. Anthropometric indexes were also examined in relation to growth patterns.

Results: Decreased maternal size, poor weight gain, previous SGA infant and smoking were significantly associated with SGA status. Poor parental education and unemployment was increased in the study group. Mothers of SGA infants, especially the term Caucasian group, had a greater prevalence of hypertension and depressive and stress symptomatology. Ponderal index failed to identify discreet patterns of disproportionate/proportionate growth retardation.

Conclusion: Biological, lifestyle and psychosocial differences remain important aetiological factors of intrauterine growth retardation. Identification of specific patterns of growth retardation by ponderal index remains controversial.