Previously, embryonic growth has been assumed to be uniform, but in recent years, it has become more clear that genetic and environmental factors may influence the intrauterine environment and therefore embryonic growth trajectories as well as pregnancy course and outcome. The objective of this study was to investigate associations between modifiable maternal nutrition and lifestyle factors during the periconception period and embryonic growth. We established a prospective cohort including 342 women less than 13 weeks pregnant. At enrollment, women filled out a questionnaire regarding demographic and medical data and a validated food frequency questionnaire. Participants received multiple 3-dimensional ultrasound examinations up until the 12th week of pregnancy, and crown–rump length (CRL) and embryonic volume (EV) were measured offline using V-Scope Virtual Reality software (version 1.0.0) in a Barco I-Space. Associations between maternal periconception vegetable and fruit intake, folic acid supplement use, smoking, and alcohol consumption and embryonic growth measurements were assessed by linear mixed models adjusted for potential confounders. No or postconception initiation of folic acid supplement use was significantly associated with a 0.76 mm (−7.8%) and 1.63 mm (−3.7%) smaller CRL and a 0.01 cm3 (−19.5%) and 0.86 cm3 (−12.2%) smaller EV at 7+0 and 11+0 weeks of gestation, respectively. Smoking, alcohol consumption, and inadequate fruit and vegetable intake showed weaker associations with embryonic growth parameters. These results emphasize the influence of periconceptional maternal folic acid supplement use on embryonic growth. Results regarding maternal nutrition and lifestyle factors also suggest an association with embryonic growth, but this has to be confirmed in a larger study.

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Reproductive Sciences
Department of Gynaecology & Obstetrics

van Dijk, M., Borggreven, N., Willemsen, S., Koning, A., Steegers-Theunissen, R., & Koster, M. (2017). Maternal Lifestyle Impairs Embryonic Growth. Reproductive Sciences. doi:10.1177/1933719117728801