Poor foetal growth in the first three months of pregnancy is associated with a range of cardiovascular risk factors in childhood.
The findings add to a growing body of evidence and suggest that the first trimester of pregnancy may be a critical period for cardiovascular health in later life.
The first trimester of pregnancy includes the 'embryonic phase' (a period of rapid development when the heart and other major organs start to form).
So a team of researchers in the Netherlands decided to examine whether poor growth during this period is associated with cardiovascular risk in childhood, according to bmj.com.
The study involved 1,184 school-age children with first trimester crown to rump length measurements (commonly used to estimate foetal age) whose mothers had a known first day of their last menstrual period and a regular cycle.
Using first trimester crown to rump length, the researchers split the group of foetuses into fifths. Compared with those in the highest fifth, those in the lowest fifth (the smallest fetuses) had, at age six, significantly more total fat mass and android fat mass (fat stored around the abdomen), higher diastolic blood pressure and an adverse cholesterol profile.