Talk:Abnormal Development - Fetal Origins Hypothesis

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Cite this page: Hill, M.A. (2019, June 20) Embryology Abnormal Development - Fetal Origins Hypothesis. Retrieved from

Barker References

  • Barker DJ. The fetal and infant origins of adult disease. BMJ. 1990 Nov 17;301(6761):1111.
  • Barker DJ, Martyn CN. The maternal and fetal origins of cardiovascular disease. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1992 Feb;46(1):8-11.
  • Barker DJ. Fetal nutrition and cardiovascular disease in later life. Br Med Bull. 1997 Jan;53(1):96-108.
  • Wilson J. The Barker hypothesis. An analysis. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol. 1999 Feb;39(1):1-7.


Delivery of a small for gestational age infant and greater maternal risk of ischemic heart disease

PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33047. Epub 2012 Mar 14.

Bukowski R, Davis KE, Wilson PW. Source Medical Branch, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Texas, Galveston, Texas, United States of America.


BACKGROUND: Delivery of a small for gestational age (SGA) infant has been associated with increased maternal risk of ischemic heart disease (IHD). It is uncertain whether giving birth to SGA infant is a specific determinant of later IHD, independent of other risk factors, or a marker of general poor health. The purpose of this study was to investigate the association between delivery of a SGA infant and maternal risk for IHD in relation to traditional IHD risk factors. METHODS AND FINDINGS: Risk of maternal IHD was evaluated in a population based cross-sectional study of 6,608 women with a prior live term birth who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1999-2006), a probability sample of the U.S. population. Sequence of events was determined from age at last live birth and at diagnosis of IHD. Delivery of a SGA infant is strongly associated with greater maternal risk for IHD (age adjusted OR; 95% CI: 1.8; 1.2, 2.9; p = 0.012). The association was independent of the family history of IHD, stroke, hypertension and diabetes (family history-adjusted OR; 95% CI: 1.9; 1.2, 3.0; p = 0.011) as well as other risk factors for IHD (risk factor-adjusted OR; 95% CI: 1.7; 1.1, 2.7; p = 0.025). Delivery of a SGA infant was associated with earlier onset of IHD and preceded it by a median of 30 (interquartile range: 20, 36) years. CONCLUSIONS: Giving birth to a SGA infant is strongly and independently associated with IHD and a potential risk factor that precedes IHD by decades. A pregnancy that produces a SGA infant may induce long-term cardiovascular changes that increase risk for IHD.

PMID 22431995


Prenatal exposure to PCDDs/PCDFs and dioxin-like PCBs in relation to birth weight

Konishi K, Sasaki S, Kato S, Ban S, Washino N, Kajiwara J, Todaka T, Hirakawa H, Hori T, Yasutake D, Kishi R. Environ Res. 2009 Oct;109(7):906-13. Epub 2009 Aug 14.

Several human studies have shown that low-level exposure to environmental contaminants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticides, negatively influences birth outcomes. However, the effects of low-level exposure to polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), and dioxin-like PCBs (DL-PCBs) on birth outcomes have not been clarified in human studies. A prospective cohort study was established to investigate the possible adverse effects of PCDDs/PCDFs and DL-PCBs on fetal growth and neurodevelopment. We recruited 514 pregnant women between July 2002 and October 2005 in Sapporo, Japan. We measured 29 congener levels of PCDDs/PCDFs and DL-PCBs in maternal blood. Using multiple liner regression analysis of the association between birth weight and the levels of PCDDs/PCDFs and DL-PCBs with full adjustments for potential confounders, a significant adverse effect was observed regarding total PCDDs toxic equivalents (TEQ) levels (adjusted beta=-231.5g, 95% CI: -417.4 to -45.6) and total PCDFs TEQ levels (adjusted beta=-258.8g, 95% CI: -445.7 to -71.8). Among male infants, significant adverse associations with birth weight were found for total PCDDs TEQ level, total PCDDs/PCDFs TEQ level, and total TEQ level. However, among female infants, these significant adverse associations were not found. With regard to individual congeners of PCDDs/PCDFs and DL-PCBs, we found significantly negative association with the levels of 2,3,4,7,8-PeCDF (adjusted beta=-24.5g, 95% CI: -387.4 to -61.5). Our findings suggest that prenatal low-level exposure to PCDDs and PCDFs, especially 2,3,4,7,8-PeCDF, may accumulate in the placenta and retard important placental functions, which result in lower birth weight.

PMID: 19683226

Fetal origins of adult disease-the hypothesis revisited

BMJ. 1999 Jul 24;319(7204):245-9.

  • The hypothesis that adult disease has fetal origins is plausible, but much supportive evidence is flawed by incomplete and incorrect statistical interpretation.
  • When size in early life is related to later health outcomes only after adjustment for current size, it is probably the change in size between these points (postnatal centile crossing) rather than fetal biology that is implicated.
  • Even when birth size is directly related to later outcome, some studies fail to explore whether this is partly or wholly explained by postnatal rather that prenatal factors.
  • These considerations are critical to understanding the biology and timing of "programming," the direction of future research, and future public health interventions.

Lucas A, Fewtrell MS, Cole TJ.

BMJ full article

Fetal growth

Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol. 2000 Apr;12(2):111-5.

  • Recent epidemiological and experimental studies show that abnormal fetal growth can lead to serious complications, including stillbirth, perinatal morbidity and disorders extending well beyond the neonatal period. It is now clear that the intrauterine milieu is as important as genetic endowment in shaping the future health of the conceptus. Maternal characteristics such as weight, height, parity and ethnic group need to be adjusted for, and pathological factors such as smoking excluded, to establish appropriate standards and improve the distinction between what is normal and abnormal. Currently, the aetiology of growth restriction is not well understood and preventative measures are ineffective. Elective delivery remains the principal management option, which emphasizes the need for better screening techniques for the timely detection of intrauterine growth failure.

Mongelli M, Gardosi J.

Fetal growth and long-term consequences in animal models of growth retardation

Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 1998 Dec;81(2):149-56.

    • Perturbations of the maternal environment involve an abnormal intrauterine milieu for the developing fetus. The altered fuel supply (depends on substrate availability, placental transport of nutrients and uteroplacental blood flow) from mother to fetus induces alterations in the development of the fetal endocrine pancreas and adaptations of the fetal metabolism to the altered intrauterine environment, resulting in intrauterine growth retardation. The alterations induced by maternal diabetes or maternal malnutrition (protein-calorie or protein deprivation) have consequences for the offspring, persisting into adulthood and into the next generation.

Holemans K, Aerts L, Van Assche FA.