Study finds shorter women have shorter pregnancies

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KANSAS CITY, Mo — Shorter women have shorter pregnancies.  That’s the finding of a new study looking at height and the risk of preterm birth.  But a metro doctor says shorter women shouldn’t be too concerned.

Brook Humphrey had to deliver her daughter,  Dylen, a month early because the baby had anemia.  She’s in the neonatal intensive care unit at Saint Luke’s Hospital.  It’s a worry for Humphrey.

“Just because she’s not with me in my room all the time like I’d like her to be,” she said.

About one in nine babies in America arrives early. Many face serious and lifelong health problems.  Researchers with the March of Dimes wondered whether a mother’s height influences that risk.  They found it did.  Shorter mothers were more likely to have shorter pregnancies.

Dr. Karen Florio, a perinatologist at Saint Luke’s, says it wasn’t a significant difference.  A woman who’s 4 foot 5 inches tall would deliver on average a little more than 10 days earlier than a woman who’s 5 foot 5.  A premature baby is one born at least 21 days early.

“I would say not to worry about it if you’re a shorter woman.  I wouldn’t be too concerned about delivering prematurely.   I think monitoring your symptoms and your comfort level and letting your doctor know what’s going on with you is probably the most important strategy,” said Dr. Florio.

She says she hasn’t noticed shorter women delivering more premature babies than taller ones, but shorter women can be more uncomfortable during pregnancy.

“Because they have a shorter torso, so there’s less room in there,” Dr. Florio said.

She adds that the study could be one more clue about the components of prematurity.

“I just never would have thought height would have been something to even consider,” said Humphrey.

That’s spoken by a woman who, at 5 foot 7, is fairly tall and still had a baby prematurely.

The study published in the journal PLOS Medicine didn’t explain why shorter women have shorter pregnancies.  The U.S. researchers looked at northern European women, so Dr. Florio says the results might not be the same with U.S. women.