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Underweight babies more prone to fertility problems in later life

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Baby girls who are born small or underweight are more likely to have fertility problems in later life, a new study suggests.

Experts have found that underweight or small baby girls will be twice as likely to have difficulties getting pregnant in adulthood than girls who are born normal size.

Research, published in the online journal BMJ Open, examined 1,200 Swedish women born from 1973 and onwards.

The women were all seeking help for fertility problems between 2005 and 2010.

Almost two fifths (38.5%) of infertility problems were noted in the women seeking treatment, male problems caused 26.8% of cases, combined problems were noted in 6.6% of infertility cases and the rest were unexplained.

Researchers found that 37 of the women weighed less than 2500g at birth, of which 23 belonged to the female or combined infertility category. Only two women had weighed less than 1500g at birth - both of these belonged to either the female infertility category or the combined infertility category.

And 40 women were classed as being “small for gestational age” when they were born.

Analysis showed that women with fertility problems attributed to a female problem were 2.4 times as likely to have been underweight at birth than those whose problems were attributable to male problems or unexplained.

These women were 2.7 times as likely to have been born unexpectedly small than those whose primary cause of infertility was undetermined.

They authors questioned whether growth restriction in the womb might affect the developing reproductive organs.

While they called for more research to confirm the findings, they cautioned that there could be an increased prevalence of fertility problems in coming years as medical advances have led to the survival of more and more underweight and small babies.

“This study indicates that there is an association between being born with LBW (low birth weight) and/or SGA (small for gestational age) and infertility in women,” they wrote.

“As medical research and care advances, more infants will be born and survive with LBW and/or SGA, which in turn might influence future need of infertility treatment.

“The present study is the first on this topic; thus, more studies are needed to verify these possible associations and to determine their nature.”

 

The research is published in the journal BMJ Open

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