The ponderal index (PI) (g/cm3 X 100) was used to define the state of nutrition at birth of 47 light-for-date (LFD) term infants and to determine how intrauterine undernutrition influences growth during the first 6 months of postnatal life, at four age intervals: birth--4, 5--8, 9--12, 13--26 weeks. With the exception of one baby, each PI was less than 50th centile on the Miller and Hassanein standards: in 24 (51%) babies the PI was less than 3rd centile. This suggests that, generally, LFD infants are underweight for length, and by inference, are likely to have experienced intrauterine undernutrition. In the first month the 24 'wasted' infants (PI less than 3rd centile) gained more rapidly in weight, and grew more quickly in head circumference and length than the 16 'nonwasted' infants (PI greater than 10th centile). Thereafter growth rates were similar. With the exception of weight in the 'nonwasted' infants during the first month, rates of growth (weight, length, and head circumference) in both groups of babies in each of the 3 months after birth were greater than in normal infants. The first 3 months after birth can therefore be defined as the period of 'catch-up' growth in LFD term infants.
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