Restricted embryo growth in early pregnancy could predict risk of miscarriage
May lead to ways of preventing such tragedies


Indicator: The distance between the embryo's head and buttocks during the early stages of pregnancy could be used to predict the risk of miscarriage

Indicator: The distance between the embryo's head and buttocks during the early stages of pregnancy could be used to predict the risk of miscarriage

Scientists have found a link between miscarriages and the growth of an embryo in the early stages of pregnancy which could lead to ways of preventing such tragedies.

Researchers discovered that nearly 80 per cent of single-baby pregnancies which ended in miscarriage involved foetuses with restricted growth in the first trimester.

Now they hope this trend could be used as a predictor to identify those mothers most at risk.

A team from the University of Nottingham measured the length of more than 500 single and twin embryos conceived through IVF during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

It was carried out with IVF mothers so they could determine the exact gestational age.

The distance from the top of the baby's head to the bottom of its buttocks was then recorded using an ultrasound scan.

They worked out that 78 per cent of single-embryo pregnancies that miscarried were growth-restricted, while 98 per cent of those that did not miscarry were not growth-stunted.

In twin pregnancies, however, only 29 per cent of miscarriages were linked to poor growth.

They also found an unexpected result in that twins grew at the same rate as single foetuses during the trimester.

Surprise find: An ultrasound of twins, which grew at the same rate as single foetuses, an unexpected result

Surprise find: An ultrasound of twins, which grew at the same rate as single foetuses, an unexpected result

Dr Shyamaly Sur, who led the research, said it was the 'clearest evidence yet' of a pattern, but said more investigation was needed to assess other factors.

He told the BBC: 'There are various reasons why some embryos show restricted growth in the early stages of pregnancy.

'It could be down to an abnormality in the foetus or something in the environment of the womb.

'More research is now needed to investigate the relationship between growth and the underlying causes of miscarriage in more detail.'