The vulnerability for behavioral problems is partly shaped in fetal life. Numerous studies have related indicators of intrauterine growth, for example, birth weight and body size, to behavioral development. We investigated whether fetal size in mid- and late pregnancy is related to infant irritability and alertness. In a population-based birth cohort of 4,255 singleton full-term infants ultrasound measurements of fetal head and abdominal circumference in mid- and late pregnancy were performed. Infant irritability and alertness scores were obtained by the Mother and Baby Scales at 3 months and z-standardized. Multiple linear regression analyses revealed curvilinear associations (inverted J-shape) of measures of fetal size in both mid- and late pregnancy with infant alertness. Fetal size characteristics were not associated with infant irritability. These results suggest that alterations of intrauterine growth affecting infant alertness are already detectable from mid-pregnancy onwards.

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Developmental Psychobiology
Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus University

Henrichs, J., Schenk, J., Schmidt, H., Arends, L., Steegers, E., Hofman, A., … Tiemeier, H. (2009). Fetal size in mid- and late pregnancy is related to infant alertness: The generation R study. Developmental Psychobiology, 51(2), 119–130. doi:10.1002/dev.20351