A new customized fetal growth standard for African American women: the PRB/NICHD Detroit study Academic Article uri icon


  • Background: The assessment of fetal growth disorders requires a standard. Current nomograms for the assessment of fetal growth in African American women have been derived either from neonatal (rather than fetal) biometry data or have not been customized for maternal ethnicity, weight, height, and parity and fetal sex. Objective: We sought to (1) develop a new customized fetal growth standard for African American mothers; and (2) compare such a standard to 3 existing standards for the classification of fetuses as small (SGA) or large (LGA) for gestational age. Study design: A retrospective cohort study included 4183 women (4001 African American and 182 Caucasian) from the Detroit metropolitan area who underwent ultrasound examinations between 14-40 weeks of gestation (the median number of scans per pregnancy was 5, interquartile range 3-7) and for whom relevant covariate data were available. Longitudinal quantile regression was used to build models defining the "normal" estimated fetal weight (EFW) centiles for gestational age in African American women, adjusted for maternal height, weight, and parity and fetal sex, and excluding pathologic factors with a significant effect on fetal weight. The resulting Perinatology Research Branch/Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (hereinafter, PRB/NICHD) growth standard was compared to 3 other existing standards--the customized gestation-related optimal weight (GROW) standard; the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (hereinafter, NICHD) African American standard; and the multinational World Health Organization (WHO) standard--utilized to screen fetuses for SGA (<10th centile) or LGA (>90th centile) based on the last available ultrasound examination for each pregnancy. Results: First, the mean birthweight at 40 weeks was 133 g higher for neonates born to Caucasian than to African American mothers and 150 g higher for male than female neonates; maternal weight, height, and parity had a positive effect on birthweight. Second, analysis of longitudinal EFW revealed the following features of fetal growth: (1) all weight centiles were about 2% higher for male than for female fetuses; (2) maternal height had a positive effect on EFW, with larger fetuses being affected more (2% increase in the 95th centile of weight for each 10-cm increase in height); and (3) maternal weight and parity had a positive effect on EFW that increased with gestation and varied among the weight centiles. Third, the screen-positive rate for SGA was 7.2% for the NICHD African American standard, 12.3% for the GROW standard, 13% for the WHO standard customized by fetal sex, and 14.4% for the PRB/NICHD customized standard. For all standards, the screen-positive rate for SGA was at least 2-fold higher among fetuses delivered preterm than at term. Fourth, the screen-positive rate for LGA was 8.7% for the GROW standard, 9.2% for the PRB/NICHD customized standard, 10.8% for the WHO standard customized by fetal sex, and 12.3% for the NICHD African American standard. Finally, the highest overall agreement among standards was between the GROW and PRB/NICHD customized standards (Cohen's interrater agreement, kappa = 0.85). Conclusion: We developed a novel customized PRB/NICHD fetal growth standard from fetal data in an African American population without assuming proportionality of the effects of covariates, and without assuming that these effects are equal on all centiles of weight; we also provide an easy-to-use centile calculator. This standard classified more fetuses as being at risk for SGA compared to existing standards, especially among fetuses delivered preterm, but classified about the same number of LGA. The comparison among the 4 growth standards also revealed that the most important factor determining agreement among standards is whether they account for the same factors known to affect fetal growth.

publication date

  • January 1, 2018