This just in: Your height may play a role in determining when you go into labor. A new study published this summer in the journal PLOS Medicine linked a mother’s height to her chances for preterm birth. The study, out of the Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, found that the shorter the woman, the shorter her pregnancy may be.
In the United States, around 500,000 babies are born prematurely each year. In fact, the U.S. has one of the highest rates for preterm birth of any developed country. And it’s not just early births that are the problem – premature babies are at higher risk for serious illness and health issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control, complications that arise from premature births result in one-third of infant deaths each year.
This study tracked the pregnancies and births of 3,500 moms and babies in Finland, Norway, and Denmark. While the study did not draw conclusions as to why mom’s height plays a role, some experts are offering their own ideas. Height, they say, may affect a woman’s uterus and pelvis size – meaning babies conceived by these moms would have less room to develop and this might prompt an early exit.
So you’re short in stature and freaking out about it now? Take a deep breath. Louis Muglia, director at the Center for Prevention of Preterm Birth and lead author of the study, reminds us that many factors play a role in premature birth. Everything from mom’s weight to disease history to stress can contribute to a woman’s risk for early labor. “[Height] is part of the equation,” says Muglia.
The best thing shorter moms-to-be can do for their little ones is to be at their healthiest throughout pregnancy: Be mindful about weight gain, never miss a prenatal appointment, and be sure to take in the right nutrients through a prenatal vitamin and a balanced diet.