In order to more adequately characterize patterns of intrauterine growth retardation in twins, the mean birthweights of all nonanomalous white or black twins born between 24 and 41 weeks of gestation and surviving until discharge over an 11-year period (547 infants) and all similar singletons (19,072 infants) were compared by completed weeks of gestation. Between 24 and 35 weeks of gestation, the mean birthweights for the 547 twins and the 19,072 singletons were comparable and did not consistently differ statistically. From 36 to 41 weeks gestation, however, the difference became large, consistent, and statistically significant for each week at P < 0.0001. This difference was present among all subgroups of twins, ie, in all males, females, blacks, and whites; it was still evident when the sample was further stratified by both race and sex (black males, white males, black females, white females). These data suggest a pattern of growth retardation in twins compared to singletons which is large, consistent, and statistically significant beginning at 36 weeks gestation. Clinically, these data also suggest the need for ultrasound examination early in gestation (24-32 weeks) to document normal growth and to provide baseline data, and show the importance of such monitoring later in gestation, specifically after 36 weeks.
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