Do Shorter Women Have More Complications While Giving Birth?

By Sharon Thomas

Pregnancy is a very exciting phase in life with full of surprises. The body of a woman undergoes massive transformation during this time, making herself ready for motherhood. The changes that happen can be both good and bad. With the kind of information available today, most women equip themselves to face these changes in advance. But this article is about a characteristic of a woman that cannot be changed and that influences delivery to a certain extent. It is a woman's height.

Scientists studied around 3000 women and found an interesting link between short pregnant women and premature birth. They concluded that the height of the mother, which affects full-term labour is not only due to genetics but also due to the nutrition, habits and lifestyle.

The study also says that women need not be overly concerned about being short when pregnant as long as proper prenatal care is taken. However, there are some possibilities of complications that can occur when being a short mom-to-be. This article discusses on those points. Read on.

do shorter women have more complications in giving birth

Height That Is Considered Short By The Medical Field

We are talking about problems with pregnancy for short women. At what height of a person is normal vaginal delivery found problematic? To tell the truth, there is no specific answer.

Talking about it in rough terms, a woman below 5 ft is considered short. There are other views as well. The fact is that it does not mean all women who fall below 5 ft are incapable of normal delivery. There are numerous cases where the delivery has been successful. It is only that the chances of complications are higher for women who measure below 5 ft.

Complications That Can Occur


Pre-term birth

Pre-term birth is the first and foremost complication that can happen to a carrying mother who is short. A baby given birth prior to 37 weeks is considered to be born premature. Such babies might have issues with respiration and digestion. A study conducted on several women says that maternal height influences the duration for which the baby is carried.


Cephalopelvic disproportion

This is a medical condition where the head of the baby is not in proportion with the pelvis of the mother for a normal vaginal delivery. In most cases, it so happens that the head of the baby is large to pass through the birth canal. This can happen in shorter women because they tend to have a small pelvis compared to others.


Obstetric Fistula

An obstetric fistula is a hole that forms between the vagina and the urinary tract or rectum. The skin between the two organs literally gives a way creating a passage. When a baby is too big for the birth canal and if the labour requires pushing the baby out for a prolonged period, chances of a tissue damage are higher. The probability of obstetric fistula is higher in shorter women.


Low Birth Weight And Height Of Baby

Since the uterine and pelvic sizes are small for shorter women, the baby does not get enough room for development; and this results in a small baby. This affects the weight and may be even the height to which the baby must grow.



Episiotomy is not a complication as such, as it is done for most women, especially during the first childbirth. A small cut is made between the vagina and anus to help deliver the head of the baby out. The incision made will definitely be deeper for shorter women and it will take longer time to heal.


Foetal Distress

Due to prolonged labour, the foetus might feel uncomfortable inside the womb and at times, the foetus may fail to receive the required amount of oxygen for survival. This condition is a very rare one to occur.


Excessive Bleeding

The amount of pressure that shorter women will have to apply for a vaginal birth is higher, as there is less room for the baby to come out. This can cause tissue damage in the vagina and might lead to excessive bleeding than usual.


How To Reduce The Chances Of Complications?

Maternal height is just one of the many factors that influence pregnancy. Nothing much can be done to increase height, which is largely based on genes. But, there are cases where the height gets stunted due to lack of nutrition in childhood.

So, mothers must take care to provide their children with proper food. At the time of pregnancy, it is better to concentrate on other factors to make the process an easier one. They include proper intake of food, appropriate weight gain, adequate exercise, and 18-23 months of time gap between pregnancies, among many others.

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    Read more about: pregnancy
    Story first published: Monday, November 13, 2017, 12:47 [IST]
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