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The aim of this study was to validate a model for optimal birth weight derived from neonatal records, and to test the assumption that preterm births may be considered optimally grown if they are not exposed to common factors that perturb fetal growth.
Weights of fetuses were estimated from serial biometric ultrasound scans (N=2,848) and combined with neonatal weights for a prospective pregnancy cohort (N=691). Non-Caucasians, fetuses subsequently born preterm and those with diagnosed or suspected determinants of aberrant growth were excluded leaving fetuses assumed to have experienced normal growth. A generalised linear longitudinal growth model for optimal weight was derived, including terms for gestational duration, infant sex, maternal height and birth order. This model was compared to a published model derived solely from birth weights.
Prior to 30weeks gestation, the published model yielded systematically lower weights than the model derived from both fetal weight and neonatal weight. From 30weeks gestation the two models were indistinguishable.
The model for optimal birth weight was valid for births that have attained at least 30weeks gestation. The model derived from both fetal and neonatal weights is recommended prior to this gestation.