Researchers have placed a direct link between the length of a woman's pregnancy and her height. The research says shorter women are more susceptible to shorter pregnancies, and ultimately at higher risk of premature birth.
A team from the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center Ohio Collaborative analysed 3,485 Northern European women and their babies, and discovered maternal height helped shape foetal environment, which influences the length of pregnancy and frequency of prematurity.
Some 15 million babies are born pre-term and one million die as a result. Those who survive are prone to lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, jaundice, vision loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual delays, according to the research published in Plos Medicine.
Joe Leigh Simpson, March of Dimes senior vice president for Research and Global Programs, said: "A major goal of the nationwide network of March of Dimes prematurity research centres is identifying genes that govern foetal growth and length of pregnancy. That a woman's height influences gestational length, independent of the genes she passes on that determine foetal size, is a major finding by our research networks, and the first of what we expect to be many genetic contributions."
Louis Muglia, the primary investigator of the Ohio Collaborative, and co-director of the Perinatal Institute at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, added: "Our finding shows that a mother's height has a direct impact on how long her pregnancy lasts. The explanation for why this happens is unclear but could depend not only on unknown genes but also on woman's lifetime of nutrition and her environment."