The aim of the study was to investigate the post-natal growth of subjects born small for gestational age (SGA) by describing adult height distribution and by testing the effects of parental, neonatal and pregnancy-related parameters on the risk for adult short stature. The study population was made of adults selected on birth data from a maternity registry and born either small (SGA, n = 734, birth weight <10th percentile) or appropriate for gestational age (AGA, n = 886, 25th < birth weight <75th percentile) in whom anthropometric parameters were measured at 22 years of age. The SGA group demonstrated significantly reduced body size in comparison to the AGA group with a mean loss of 0.7 standard deviation (SD) in adult height. The frequency of adult short stature (<–2 SD) was 10.3% in the SGA group vs. 2.4% in the AGA group (p = 0.0001), adult height <–2.5 SD was observed in only 3.7% of the SGA group. Maternal (OR = 0.31 (0.16–0.62), p = 0.0001) and paternal (OR = 0.45 (0.31–0.67), p = 0.0001) heights and subjects birth length (OR = 0.78 (0.62–0.99), p = 0.04) significantly influenced the risk of adult short stature. In summary, post-natal growth defect remains moderate in the majority of subjects born SGA and <4% only will end up with severe short stature requiring GH therapy according to most current recommendations. The role of parental height and birth length suggests that adult short stature in SGA subjects results at least in some cases from a familial and likely genetic growth disorder with antenatal onset.

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