Above: Louis Muglia, MD, PhD, Below: Ge Zhang, MD, PhD.

Above: Louis Muglia, MD, PhD
Below: Ge Zhang, MD, PhD

Scientists have long observed that shorter mothers have shorter pregnancies, smaller babies, and higher risk for preterm birth. Research published online Aug. 18, 2015, in PLoS Medicine, connects this phenomenon to height-associated single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). SNPS are the most common genetic variations among people.

The study looked at 3,485 Nordic women and their babies, and found that maternal height directly influenced the length of the pregnancy.

“The explanation for how this happens is unclear, but could be related to height reflecting the size of the uterus and pelvis, or to the mother’s metabolic rate and the amount of nutrition she can supply to the growing baby,” says Louis Muglia, MD, PhD, primary investigator of the March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center Ohio Collaborative and co-director of the Perinatal Institute at Cincinnati Children’s. Muglia and Ge Zhang, MD, PhD, collaborated on the study.

The doctors say further confirmation is needed in additional cohorts. And the findings may not apply to low- or middle-income countries where nutrition can restrict growth.