Differences in fetal growth patterns between twins and singletons**

Liran Hiersch, Rania Okby, Howie Freeman, Hadar Rosen, Ori Nevo, Jon Barrett, Nir Melamed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective: Twin fetus growth is delayed during the third trimester compared to singletons. Whether this phenomenon should be considered a normal physiologic characteristic of twins or a pathologic process inherent to twin pregnancies is currently unclear. Information on the growth rate of the individual fetal biometric indices may provide more insight into the mechanisms underlying these differences between twins and singletons. Our aim was to compare fetal growth pattern between twin and singleton fetuses. Methods: This was a retrospective study of women with an uncomplicated twin pregnancy who underwent sonographic fetal weight estimation between 16 and 38 weeks’ gestation in a single referral center. Twins-specific regression models were generated for biparietal diameter (BPD), head circumference (HC), abdominal circumference (AC), femur length (FL) and fetal weight as a function of gestational age and were compared to published singletons-based curves. Results: Overall 543 women were eligible for the study and underwent a total of 3401 sonographic weight estimations. Estimated weight of twin fetus emerged as lower than that of singletons starting at 26 weeks of gestation, and these differences increased with gestational age, reaching a mean difference of 300–350 g or of ∼10% at term. The growth of all four biometric indices was slower in twins compared to singletons, but the differences were most pronounced for AC which had the largest relative contribution to the lower fetal weight in twins (51.7 ± 7.3%), while the relative contribution of FL, HC, and BPD was smaller (26.4 ± 10.7, 15.5 ± 3.0, and 6.4%±5.7%, respectively). This was also reflected by a higher HC/AC ratio in twins compared with singletons starting at 22 weeks of gestation. The likelihood of a twin fetus being diagnosed as small for gestational age (fetal weight <10th percentile) was significantly lower when the newly developed twins-based curves (rather than singletons-based curves) were used (OR: 0.39, 95%-CI: 0.34–0.44). Conclusion: Twin fetus experience slowing of growth beginning at ∼26 weeks of gestation and a greater degree of asymmetric growth pattern compared with singletons. These findings suggest that the slower growth of twins may reflect a state of “relative growth restriction” compared with singleton gestations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2546-2555
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine
Volume33
Issue number15
DOIs
StatePublished - 2 Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Fetal
  • growth
  • pattern
  • singleton
  • slow
  • twin

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