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Patterns of fetal and infant growth are related to atopy and wheezing disorders at age 3 years

Abstract

Background Little is known about whether patterns of early growth are associated with altered respiratory and immune development. This study relates prenatal and infant growth patterns to wheeze and atopy at age 3 years.

Methods Birth weight and length were measured in 1548 children born at term. Conditional fetal head and abdominal circumference growth velocities were calculated from antenatal ultrasound measurements. Conditional postnatal growth velocities were calculated from infant weight, length and adiposity data. Measures of size and conditional growth were related to parentally-reported infant and early childhood wheeze and to atopic status at age 3 years.

Results The risk of atopy increased by 46% per SD increase in abdominal circumference growth velocity from 11 to 19 weeks gestation but by 20% per SD decrease in abdominal growth velocity from 19 to 34 weeks (p=0.007 and p=0.011, respectively). The risk of atopic wheeze increased by 20% per SD decrease in 19–34-week abdominal growth (p=0.046). The risk of non-atopic wheeze increased by 10% per SD decrease in 11–19-week head circumference growth. Greater relative infant weight and adiposity gains were associated with both atopic and non-atopic wheeze.

Conclusions A rapid growth trajectory during 11–19 weeks gestation followed by late gestation growth faltering is associated with atopy, suggesting that influences affecting fetal growth may also alter immune development. A lower early fetal growth trajectory is associated with non-atopic wheeze, possibly reflecting an association with smaller airways. An association between postnatal adiposity gain and wheeze may partly reflect prenatal influences that cause fetal growth to falter but are then followed by postnatal adiposity gain.

  • Asthma
  • preschool wheeze
  • allergic sensitisation
  • growth
  • nutrition
  • asthma epidemiology
  • clinical epidemiology
  • paediatric asthma

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Footnotes

  • Funding Follow-up of children in the Southampton Women's Survey has been funded by the Medical Research Council, University of Southampton, British Heart Foundation and the Food Standards Agency (Contract No N05071). The research is supported by infrastructure provided by the NIHR Respiratory and Nutrition, Diet and Lifestyle Biomedical Research Units. KP was supported by a grant from the British Lung Foundation.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Southampton and South West Hampshire local research ethics committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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