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Early intrauterine development: I. The rate of growth of Caucasian embryos and fetuses between the 6th and 20th weeks of gestation.

  • Iffy, L
  • Jakobovits, A
  • Westlake, W
  • Wingate, M
  • Caterini, H
  • Kanofsky, P
  • Menduke, H
Published Article
Publication Date
Aug 01, 1975
PMID: 1161367


Liberalization of abortion laws in various countries and states of Europe and America has offered an opportunity for the study of the correlations between menstrual age and the rate of bodily development of human embryos and fetuses. In several institutions where local bylaws mandated the consent of the patients requesting therapeutic abortion to pathological investigation of the products of conception, various parameters of growth were measured systematically. These included crown-rump and foot lengths and body weight. The analysis of the data indicated that in the embryosic stages of development the rate of growth is substantially slower than it had been assumed previously. In the more advanced fetal stages of development the findings supported the validity of the long-established standard of Streeter. Since the current study has been based on apparently normal gestations of healthy women, whereas earlier data had rested, to a great extent, on spontaneously aborted and extopic embryon and fetuses, it seems evident that pathological specimens are not suitable for the purpose of establishing reliable standards of normal intrauterine growth rate. The present data support the suggestion, based on various experimental and clinical observations, that pathological gestations often result from abnormal ovulations that occur at times other than the mid-cycle and that such conceptions are frequently followed by a bleeding episode that simulates menstruation. It is likely that the inclusion of a high number of such cases biased the results of earlier investigations concerning embryonic growth rate on account of the frequent incidence of erroneous menstrual histories. The material available did not permit the extension of the investigation beyond the 20th week of gestation. It appears, however, that the average growth rate in the mid-trimester may be slower than the data adopted by the American Academy of Pediatrics would indicate. The possible causes of some phenomena observed in the course of the investigation, such as unexplained scatter of growth-rate patterns at all developmental stages and discrepancies among various literary data, have been discussed in some detail. While a tentative attempt has been made to correlate the investigated parameters of fetal growth with biparietal diameters of the head, a measurement accessible to direct assessment by sonography during pregnancy, the necessity of improving these standards through a prospective study has been emphasized.

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