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1.  Prevalence, Risk Factors and Outcomes of Velamentous and Marginal Cord Insertions: A Population-Based Study of 634,741 Pregnancies 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(7):e70380.
To determine the prevalence of, and risk factors for anomalous insertions of the umbilical cord, and the risk for adverse outcomes of these pregnancies.
Population-based registry study.
Medical Birth Registry of Norway 1999–2009.
All births (gestational age >16 weeks to <45 weeks) in Norway (623,478 singletons and 11,263 pairs of twins).
Descriptive statistics and odds ratios (ORs) for risk factors and adverse outcomes based on logistic regressions adjusted for confounders.
Main outcome measures
Velamentous or marginal cord insertion. Abruption of the placenta, placenta praevia, pre-eclampsia, preterm birth, operative delivery, low Apgar score, transferral to neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), malformations, birthweight, and perinatal death.
The prevalence of abnormal cord insertion was 7.8% (1.5% velamentous, 6.3% marginal) in singleton pregnancies and 16.9% (6% velamentous, 10.9% marginal) in twins. The two conditions shared risk factors; twin gestation and pregnancies conceived with the aid of assisted reproductive technology were the most important, while bleeding in pregnancy, advanced maternal age, maternal chronic disease, female foetus and previous pregnancy with anomalous cord insertion were other risk factors. Velamentous and marginal insertion was associated with an increased risk of adverse outcomes such as placenta praevia (OR = 3.7, (95% CI = 3.1–4.6)), and placental abruption (OR = 2.6, (95% CI = 2.1–3.2)). The risk of pre-eclampsia, preterm birth and delivery by acute caesarean was doubled, as was the risk of low Apgar score, transferral to NICU, low birthweight and malformations. For velamentous insertion the risk of perinatal death at term was tripled, OR = 3.3 (95% CI = 2.5–4.3).
The prevalence of velamentous and marginal insertions of the umbilical cord was 7.8% in singletons and 16.9% in twin gestations, with marginal insertion being more common than velamentous. The conditions were associated with common risk factors and an increased risk of adverse perinatal outcomes; these risks were greater for velamentous than for marginal insertion.
PMCID: PMC3728211  PMID: 23936197
2.  Fetal Liver Blood Flow Distribution: Role in Human Developmental Strategy to Prioritize Fat Deposition versus Brain Development 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(8):e41759.
Among primates, human neonates have the largest brains but also the highest proportion of body fat. If placental nutrient supply is limited, the fetus faces a dilemma: should resources be allocated to brain growth, or to fat deposition for use as a potential postnatal energy reserve? We hypothesised that resolving this dilemma operates at the level of umbilical blood distribution entering the fetal liver. In 381 uncomplicated pregnancies in third trimester, we measured blood flow perfusing the fetal liver, or bypassing it via the ductus venosus to supply the brain and heart using ultrasound techniques. Across the range of fetal growth and independent of the mother's adiposity and parity, greater liver blood flow was associated with greater offspring fat mass measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, both in the infant at birth (r = 0.43, P<0.001) and at age 4 years (r = 0.16, P = 0.02). In contrast, smaller placentas less able to meet fetal demand for essential nutrients were associated with a brain-sparing flow pattern (r = 0.17, p = 0.02). This flow pattern was also associated with a higher degree of shunting through ductus venosus (P = 0.04). We propose that humans evolved a developmental strategy to prioritize nutrient allocation for prenatal fat deposition when the supply of conditionally essential nutrients requiring hepatic inter-conversion is limited, switching resource allocation to favour the brain if the supply of essential nutrients is limited. Facilitated placental transfer mechanisms for glucose and other nutrients evolved in environments less affluent than those now prevalent in developed populations, and we propose that in circumstances of maternal adiposity and nutrient excess these mechanisms now also lead to prenatal fat deposition. Prenatal developmental influences play important roles in the human propensity to deposit fat.
PMCID: PMC3425554  PMID: 22927915
3.  Fetal age assessment based on 2nd trimester ultrasound in Africa and the effect of ethnicity 
The African population is composed of a variety of ethnic groups, which differ considerably from each other. Some studies suggest that ethnic variation may influence dating. The aim of the present study was to establish reference values for fetal age assessment in Cameroon using two different ethnic groups (Fulani and Kirdi).
This was a prospective cross sectional study of 200 healthy pregnant women from Cameroon. The participants had regular menstrual periods and singleton uncomplicated pregnancies, and were recruited after informed consent. The head circumference (HC), outer-outer biparietal diameter (BPDoo), outer-inner biparietal diameter and femur length (FL), also called femur diaphysis length, were measured using ultrasound at 12–22 weeks of gestation. Differences in demographic factors and fetal biometry between ethnic groups were assessed by t- and Chi-square tests.
Compared with Fulani women (N = 96), the Kirdi (N = 104) were 2 years older (p = 0.005), 3 cm taller (p = 0.001), 6 kg heavier (p < 0.0001), had a higher body mass index (BMI) (p = 0.001), but were not different with regard to parity. Ethnicity had no effect on BPDoo (p = 0.82), HC (p = 0.89) or FL (p = 00.24). Weight, height, maternal age and BMI had no effect on HC, BPDoo and FL (p = 0.2–0.58, 0.1–0.83, and 0.17–0.6, respectively).
When comparing with relevant European charts based on similar design and statistics, we found overlapping 95% CI for BPD (Norway & UK) and a 0–4 day difference for FL and HC.
Significant ethnic differences between mothers were not reflected in fetal biometry at second trimester. The results support the recommendation that ultrasound in practical health care can be used to assess gestational age in various populations with little risk of error due to ethnic variation.
PMCID: PMC2585556  PMID: 18973673
4.  Fetal size in the second trimester is associated with the duration of pregnancy, small fetuses having longer pregnancies 
Conventionally, the pregnancy duration is accepted to be 280–282 days. Fetuses determined by ultrasound biometry to be small in early pregnancy, have an increased risk of premature birth. We speculate that the higher rate of preterm delivery in such small fetuses represents a pathological outcome not applicable to physiological pregnancies. Here we test the hypothesis that in low-risk pregnancies fetal growth (expressed by fetal size in the second trimester) is itself a determinant for pregnancy duration with the slower growing fetuses having a longer pregnancy.
We analysed duration of gestation data for 541 women who had a spontaneous delivery having previously been recruited to a cross-sectional study of 650 low-risk pregnancies. All had a regular menses and a known date of their last menstrual period (LMP). Subjects were examined using ultrasound to determine fetal head circumference (HC), abdominal circumference (AC) and femur length (FL) at 10–24 weeks of gestation. Length of the pregnancy was calculated from LMP, and birth weights were noted. The effect of fetal size at 10–24 weeks of gestation on pregnancy duration was assessed also when adjusting for the difference between LMP and ultrasound based fetal age.
Small fetuses (z-score -2.5) at second trimester ultrasound scan had lower birth weights (p < 0.0001) and longer duration of pregnancy (p < 0.0001) than large fetuses (z-score +2.5): 289.6 days (95%CI 288.0 to 291.1) vs. 276.1 (95%CI 273.6 to 278.4) for HC, 289.0 days (95%CI 287.4 to 290.6) vs. 276.9 days (95%CI 274.4 to 279.2) for AC and 288.3 vs. 277.9 days (95%CI 275.6 to 280.1) for FL. Controlling for the difference between LMP and ultrasound dating (using HC measurement), the effect of fetal size on pregnancy length was reduced to half but was still present for AC and FL (comparing z-score -2.5 with +2.5, 286.6 vs. 280.2 days, p = 0.004, and 286.0 vs. 280.9, p = 0.008, respectively).
Fetal size in the second trimester is a determinant of birth weight and pregnancy duration, small fetuses having lower birth weights and longer pregnancies (up to 13 days compared with large fetuses). Our results support a concept of individually assigned pregnancy duration according to growth rates rather than imposing a standard of 280–282 days on all pregnancies.
PMCID: PMC2492839  PMID: 18627638

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