Unborn babies with slower growth rates are more likely to suffer asthma or allergies as children, new research suggests.
Scientists at the University of Aberdeen have found that the risk of childhood asthma is five times higher for babies who as foetuses are smaller than average at 10 weeks and remain so throughout the rest of the gestation period.
A link was also indicated between foetal growth and the likelihood of allergic conditions such as eczema and hay fever during childhood.
The team examined embryo size and development at 10 weeks and 20 weeks of pregnancy in 1,500 women at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital.
In a follow-up study when the children were aged 10, more than 920 families answered questions about respiratory conditions in the youngsters, 450 of whom were tested for allergies to grass, eggs, dust mites and cats.
Researchers found children who had asthma at the age of five and 10 had been 10% or 5mm smaller than the average foetus at 10 weeks when in their mothers' womb.