The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Influence of placental characteristics on birth weight and evidence for population differences in placental morphology: a preliminary report from Cebu, Philippines


1Women, Children, and Family Health Science, University of Illinois at Chicago, 2Anthropology, University of Illinois at Chicago, 3Office of Population Studies, University of San Carlos, Cebu, Philippines, 4Center for Molecular Medicine & Genetics, Wayne State University, 5Anthropology, Northwestern University

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The placenta is the physical, metabolic, and endocrine interface between maternal ecology and the developing fetus; investigation of the functional-morphological properties of this organ can help us better understand not only what drives birth weight, but also how the intrauterine environment sets lifecourse health trajectories in motion. Here we present preliminary data on 1) the relationship between placental characteristics and birth weight of babies born to women who have been lifelong enrollees in the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey in Cebu City, Philippines and 2) evidence for population differences in placental characteristics. In contrast to findings in several populations, placental and birth weights were not correlated in our preliminary sample (n=10, r=0.04, p=0.91), although lower birth weight neonates tended to have lower-weight placentas (451.67 g vs. 638.75 g; t=-1.944, p=0.09). We compared the Cebu sample to a similarly-sized sample of control pregnancies (i.e. not growth-restricted; n=9) from Nottingham, UK. Cebu birth and placental weights were lower (though not significantly so) than the Nottingham sample, but Cebu placental villous surface area was significantly smaller (6.29 m2 vs. 11.0 m2, p<0.01). The Cebu placental villous surface area was similar to the Nottingham values for growth-restricted fetuses (n=5, 6.47 m2). Since this is the region of the placenta responsible for maternal-fetal nutrient transport, variation in this compartment has important implications for understanding population variation in fetal growth patterns, disparities, and developmental programming.

This research was supported by NIH grants R03 HD062715-01 (Kuzawa and Rutherford) and K12HD055892 (Rutherford, Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health).

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