Fetal Growth Restriction

What is Fetal Growth Restriction?

Fetal growth restriction (FGR) occurs when a baby grows at a slower rate during pregnancy.

It occurs when the placenta, which supplies oxygen and nutrition to the baby, does not provide enough nutrients.

This condition occurs after 20 weeks gestation and can cause babies to be born prematurely with low-birth weight and other complications.

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What Causes Fetal Growth Restriction?

During pregnancy, a baby may develop FGR due to:

  • Chromosomal abnormalities
  • Placental insufficiency
  • Multiple pregnancies (pregnant with more than one baby: twins, triplets, etc.)
  • Poor nutrition

Signs & Symptoms

Only a health care provider can diagnose fetal growth restriction based on an ultrasound and examination. Common signs may include one or more of the following:

  • Decreased movements of the baby
  • Reduced size for gestational age
  • Late or absent fetal heart rate accelerations
  • Small stomach measurements
  • Abnormal appearance (small head circumference or lack of fat deposition)
  • Decreased amniotic fluid levels
  • Anemia in the fetus
  • Slower heartbeat
  • Increase in uterine contractions

Risk Factors

The presence of or more of the following risk factors in the pregnant woman can lead to fetal growth restriction:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Thyroid disease
  • Pre-existing medical problems
  • Smoking and drug use during pregnancy


A physician usually diagnoses fetal growth restriction during a routine prenatal visit by ultrasound and taking size and growth measurements during the ultrasound. Further tests may be conducted to measure amniotic fluid levels and blood flow through the umbilical cord.


Treatment depends on the cause of fetal growth restriction, gestational age, and condition.

It may involve close monitoring and weekly ultrasounds to monitor the baby's growth and well-being.

Corticosteroids or magnesium sulfate may help accelerate the baby's lung maturity to ensure safe delivery and improve chances of survival if baby is born prematurely.

Nutritional support including a modified dietary regimen and supplements can also help.

CHRISTUS Children's - The Fetal Care Center

When the unexpected fetal anomaly occurs, the Fetal Care Center at CHRISTUS Children's connects pediatric specialists to pregnant women and their families, regardless of where they plan to deliver their baby.

Visit the Fetal Care Center