Small Legs Big head :(

Sorry I didn’t post sooner, I had a very stressful day.

I woke up early full of excitement about my BPP U/S (biophysical profile Ultrasound) to get a sense of how big the baby is and make sure things look Ok in there. There are a couple of concerns with post date babies other than size, like declining amniotic fluid levels and exchange between baby and placenta.

In order to get a growth estimate they need all these specific measurements which then calculate into some formula and then they tell you how big the baby is.

Everything started out well enough, until the tech asked me “Is your husband short?”

Me: “What? No, he’s 6’1″, why is the baby too short??”

Tech: “No.. just curious”

(Me: yeah right!)

Then she proceeds to take the femur length measurement about 100 times. At this point I know something is wrong…

“Is there something wrong with his leg?” I ask.

Turns out there’s this screen at the end of a BPP that shows you what weeks and days all the measurements come out to. Baby’s head is appropriately sized for 40 weeks 5 days, (i.e. big!) and his abdomen too. But the first measurements she got of his leg was for just 37 weeks and change. After trying to get better angles she managed to up this to 38 weeks, but I could tell it still isn’t enough because she talked about getting a colleague in there to try to get a better shot etc. You know it’s bad when they need someone else to take a look!

After we’d been at it for over an hour, she tried to reassure me that it’s probably something technical, i.e the measurement is off and that I shouldn’t worry etc.

Telling me not to worry is a complete exercise in futility – worrying is second nature to me, and when I think there is something wrong with my baby, there is NO stopping my head from constructing the worse possible scenarios.

After the U/S I went up to L&D for a Non Stress Test (NST) and to go over the U/S results with the Midwife on call Judy, who happened to be the midwife I saw at my last 40 week appointment.

Everything but the leg came back normal, though they did estimate his weight at 8lbs 8 oz. and based on ALL the measurements put my due date at 8/17/08 rather than 8/10/08. I guess everything but his head measured a bit behind?  But how could he be a week behind and weight that much? It doesn’t even make sense.

Judy agreed. She palpated my stomach and said she really didn’t think he was 8.5 lbs. I voiced my concern over the leg measurement and she told me that a 38 week leg measurement is a term measurement and I shouldn’t worry.

She also shared with me that at one of her son’s growth scans the tech told her his limbs were the size of dwarfism limbs! She was trying to make me feel better, but then she did say he is really short (though definitely NOT a dwarf.)   So I guess maybe Jasper will just be really really short? I’m not sure what to make of all this.

Of course I googled short femur measurement and immediately wished I hadn’t. There are all sorts of genetic disorders that this can be a marker for, even developing this late in the game. Things like Down’s syndrome, dwarfism etc. etc.

I know 38 weeks doesn’t seem like that far behind in measurements, but at this point I’m 2 days shy of 41 weeks, so it’s 3 weeks behind which is several standard deviations below normal. The midwife isn’t concerned at all, but that is small comfort to me when it comes to my baby!

In terms of progress news, she also did an internal and said I’m now a “Loose” 1cm, about 60% effaced and -1 station. So that’s a tiny bit of progress.. maybe the acupuncture session last night had some effect.

She also said they won’t let me go all the way until 42 weeks, I need to have the baby before then. They also don’t like to induce over the weekend, so if I don’t go into spontaneous labor (and she told me she thought I would within a few days) we’re looking at a next Thursday or latest next Friday induction.

Now I don’t give a rat’s ass about any of that though.. I just want to know he’s healthy. Short little legs and all :(

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Shanelle says:

okay!! so i had my little boy on 7-9-11, and wanted to let everyone know he is perfect. he was 20 and 1/4 inches long, the DNA specialist came and talked to us and told us he was very disappointed in the clinic for making me go thro all that, and he did ex rays and everything turned out just fine! HOWEVER, the original reason that i went in, his kidneys, that they were saying were dilated, and then corrected themselves, are STILL dilated… so they were wrong on yet another thing, we just have to go back in in 3 months for another ultrasound for him. other than that my little man is completely perfect!! i hope the rest of you all get the same results! it was a stressful last 20 weeks for me…

Jennifer says:

Shanelle – I’m going through something similar – how are things now? Have you delivered yet? I’m 34 weeks and short long bones and large head were seen on 32 week ultrasound.

Brenda says:

Im glad I found this website. I feel better reading about all the good outcomes. My pregnancy had been going so well up until 21 w 5 d.Thats when i learned my afp level tested positve for SP 1:8 . Next day they sent me to a level II U/S. Everything came up normal no SP. I was relief, but i couldnt stop thinking about it. I was scheduled for another level II in 4 weeks, which I had done 2 days ago. Now I am 26 weeks but my baby’s head is mesuring 28 w, abdomen 26 w, & femur 24 w. And my amniotic fluid is elevate. My peri didnt seemed that concern with the measurements now, but wants to see me in 4 weeks to check on growth. Basically what he said is that if he is growing at the same rate he is okay , but im so scared that something else will come up.

Shanelle says:

im so glad i found this. at 21 weeks, i was told my little guy had “dialated kidneys” and that i had to go in for a level 2 ultrasound. at 23 weeks i went back in and his kidneys were still dialated and now the new concern was his femurs and humerous are measuring about 3 weeks behind… no one is really telling me whats going on tho. one dr said no to dwarfism, and that some babies are just short, while another dr said we cant rule it out yet, and didnt seem very promising, while another dr kept asking if i had done the tests for downs (which i did not). well thro out my pregnancy (im now at 36 weeks), his bones continue to measure behind, while his body is normal, and his head is measuring larger. ugh!!! good news tho, his kidneys are now normal… i promise to keep everyone updated on what we find out w my little man!

oh and ps~ i found out that its a 1 cm difference between 2% and 95%… which gives me hope that the tech was just off by a tad… ill love my baby no matter what, i just want him to be happy and healthy… what mother doesnt?!

Kanda says:

Did anyone experience these measurements as well as carrying lots of water in their pregnancy?

Ava says:

Please contact your OB. They can guide you through how to interpret this data and what this could mean to your baby. I don’t think there’s anything that you can personally do to change these measurements, but there’s a chance that they will need to redo the ultrasound again (it could be wrong as you’ve seen above). Please contact your OB!

nitin says:

** Need Urgent Help **


My baby has head is 38 weeks and Femur 16 weeks. What i do, plz suggest me.


Patricia says:

When I went for my scan the tech had a different percentile for the upper and lower. I must have gone like three different times and each time was worse. The percentiles they gave me were scary. I am very greatful they were wrong. I know it is very difficult to try to remain calm…I cried. I truly hope this helps. It is very easy for them to get it wrong. They had to keep switching from regular sonogram to 4D just to be sure and they were still wrong.

Patricia says:

My baby girl was born perfect. :) I was sooo worried because during the scan they used words like dwarfism. I had to go back for more ultrasounds and I was just worried sick the remaining of the pregnancy. When she was born, it was the happiest day ever. She measured 20 1/4 inches and couldn’t be more perfect. I went back for my post partum check up and doc said she was sorry she worried me. She says they have to take all the precautions just to be on the safe side. She said maybe baby was too curled up and it is very difficult to get a true measurement. I hope this helps anybody out there that is going thru what I went thru. Enjoy your pregnancy!

Jennessa says:

Hello all …. seems to be a lot of us in this situation.

I went for a scan last Thursday (I was 37 weeks) and they measured my baby’s femur length to be in the 2nd percentile. Keep in mind that I am a mere 4’11” but my husband is 5’10”. I guess I just thought the baby would land as “average” seeing as I am short and hubby is tall LOL. Overall the baby was measured in the 23rd percentile for size which is OK I guess … the tech told me that they don’t worry too much unless its less than the 15th percentile. I’m just very upset by the 2nd percentile femur measurement … not that I’d really care if baby turns out short like its mama :) but I just hope nothing is wrong!! As my 20 week scan they said nothing about the femur length …. everything was completely normal.

Stephanie says:

I am so glad to see all these postings as I have been looking for any bit of hope that I could. I am 21 weeks pregnant and at my 20 week ultrasound it showed that the baby had shortening of the upper limbs which the doctors believe is a sign of dwarfism. I have been trying to stay positive but everything the doctors are telling me makes me feel so hopeless and cannot seem to stop crying. Has anyone else had a similiar diagnosis and if so how did things turn out. Please let me know.

ariana says:

Patricia, I hope the outcome of your sonogram was good.

Tanya, I’m so sorry you are going through this, I can’t even imagine the helplessness and fear you must be feeling right now :( Please keep us updated..

Tanya says:

I am 36 weeks pregnant and had a scan today. The doctor said that the baby’s femur and humerus measurements were in line with a 29 week old while the baby’s head and abdomen were more in line with a full term baby. I am really worried and to be honest the doctor did not confident at all. He is a fetal scanning expert so I am assuming that his measurements are spot on. He has asked me and my husband to come back tomorrow to discuss this in more detail – which makes we think that something is really really wrong. I feel helpless!

Patricia says:

I am soooo very glad you guys are posting on this subject. I recently had an ultrasound and my baby’s head, arms, chest, etc were measured. Everything was perfect except her legs. I have been so worried. I’m due at the end of March, early April 2010. Doc said for me not to worry as we typically don’t consider babies being tall or short but my little girl may just be short. I’m still worried about it but felt a sigh of relief after I read everyone’s comments. I’m scheduled for another sonogram in 2 weeks.

ariana says:

Jackie, thanks SO much for the update, and I’m so happy for you that everything was fine.. and 20″, that’s great!!

Jackie says:


My baby was born perfectly normal on December 9th with no problems! Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement! :)

Jackie says:

Just an update for those searching with the same problem in the future. My son Finley was born perfectly normal measuring 20″ and is doing very well. He just has a long torso compared to his chubby legs! :) Thank you so much for your support and encourgagement, ariana!

Jackie says:


I am almost 41 wks pregnant and my baby’s femurs are about 3 weeks behind. Both my husband and I are average for height. My nephew has Down’s syndrome, so that is my primary concern with the lagging femur lengths. I had a recent fetal assessment which said my baby was 40th percentile for weight overall and the femurs were 10th percentile. Does anyone else remember specifically how short their babies femurs were? At my 20 week ulrasound they were fine, so its weird that this is happening.

ariana says:

Hi Jackie, Jasper was measuring exactly 3 weeks behind as well. Yes, he was born a bit on the short side (19″) but has since almost caught up (he’s now between 25-50th % for height) and dare I say very advanced for his age- started walking at 10 months and his vocabulary is twice as big as most babies I know that are his age.

I know it’s hard not to worry, but at least you know the outcome isn’t necessarily bad in any way!

Alex says:

Hi Gaby

I am 32 weeks. I am still faith filled and very optimistic. I won’t have another scan until 38 weeks but no matter what I am believing God and takinh Him at has word which tells us “Evertything is possible for him who believes”. Thank you soo much for your encouragment and best wishes for me and my family. I pray God’s richest blessings on you and yours as well. I will update you guys as to what is going on but I know that no weapon formed against me shall prosper! God Bless!

gaby says:

thanx ariana i havent measured him since he was born! only wieghed him… but is just the legs look so short in comparison to my other son when he was a baby, but i will measure him as u say and have a look. thank u!

ariana says:

Hi Gaby, I don’t know of any leg measurement charts per se, but the height charts should give you some indication. What percentile is he in height? Jasper is still on the low side (20th or so) but still on the chart, so not really abnormal in any way, just a bit shorter than average!

gaby says:

have just read ur comment, i hope everything is going well. when r u due? u r right. God is always there and just talking to him makes us feel better, a little faith goes a long way. Im a bit partial to scans…i like them cos im very curious and i want to see what baby is doing and if hes a boy or a girl, but at the same time…they can lead to horrible endings, unfortunately most health professionals just see babies as ‘fetus’ or a bit of tissue, not a human being, so i congratulate u for turning down that scan =), we shall accept God’s gift with open arms and joy. Blessings for u, ur little angel and ur family xx

gaby says:

hello, i have a question. my baby was also ‘short femur’ on scan (35wks i think), everything else fine, maybe a little large head, but everythink else ok. so he was born tiny tiny (3 weeks early) and doubled his birthweight in a few weeks (wonders of breastmilk eh?) and he is now a chubby little healthy boy. however…. i still think his legs r short! he is 8 months now… do any of you know where i can find an average leg measurement chart? i just want to know if he is in the average or not, u know to get him seen in that case… =(, is just horrible not to know if he needs something or something is wrong. he is happy baby and i’m just a worry mum! thanxs, regards from london xx

Alex says:

I love this site. It gives women dealing with these situations hope. At my 20th week ultra sound my baby’s legs were measuring about 16 weeks. I was devesated for two day and then my faith kicked in. My doctor wants to do other ultrasounds but I have decieded not to do anymore until 38th week to determine c section or not. The Bible says “why worry when you can pray” and I am trusting in God to take full control of this situation. You guys all have wonderful miracles to tell about and I am hopeful that I will update with a miracle of my own. Thanks again!

reen says:


Hang in there…if you read my story above it was similar but my little boy is just fine(now 8 weeks old). I will say a prayer for you.

Rachel says:

Ariana, thanks so much for coming back to this post and updating us. Now I’m much less worried about my perfect little big-headed short-legged boy. :)

Also, I love the name “Jasper” — reminds me of the Five Little Peppers.

Lena says:

Hi everyone!

I am so happy to find this website! I am 23 weeks pregnant and my nightmare started 3 weeks ago during 20 weeks ultrasound. My baby boy’s limbs right now measured at 16 weeks and his head is 25 weeks. They are talking about the possibility of the dwarfism which can be lethal.. I know that I am trying to find some hope but did anybody have a situation like this. When Im looking at the ultrasound he is all active playing with his hands and legs, he looks perfect, but not the doctors..

ariana says:

Reen, that is such wonderful news!! I wonder what it was that the ultrasound was picking up? In any event, thank you so much for letting us know and congratulation on the birth of your healthy baby boy!

reen says:

Wanted to let you know my son was born 5/27…..totally “normal”. All of his measurements are in the 50th%

ariana says:

Oh Reen, I’m so sorry that you are dealing with this now. I hope the fact that Jasper was in the 5th % for height and now is in the 50% will give you some hope that it’s just one of those things that will resolve itself with time. I’m sorry I can’t offer you anything more than my own experience :(

reen says:

Thanks for the update….my situation has not improved. i had a level 2 U/S today and the news was not good femur less than 2% and humerus 7.7%. No other signs and other numbers are all normal but this is a nightmare.

reen says:

was wondering what happened for melissa. i am 37 weeks and was told my femur was 4% (measures 35 weeks) and head was 98% (measures 40 weeks)I am very worried. they are sending me to have additional US.

ariana says:

Hi Reen,
I don’t actually know what happened since she never posted or wrote back. Hopefully she will come by and update us.

ariana says:

Don’t be nervous, Jasper turned out fine. Yes, he was short at birth (19″ which is less than the 5th percentile!) but has since caught up and is closer to the 50% now for height :)

melissa says:

wow..I am glad your baby was ok. Reading these posts makes me very nervous. I am 40 weeks. At 35 weeks my baby’s femur measured 33 weeks and his head measured 42 weeks!! I have not been worried because I just assumed the US was off or my dr was using it wrong. I sure hope it was more than 2 weeks off..

Laila says:

Thank you so much for your reply, dear ariana. That’s so sweet of you :)

ariana says:

Everything I read on the internet about the size issues indicate that the BEST possible case scenario is that the head is bigger vs the other way around.. brain development is the most important.

Jasper was indeed born very short for his size. He was 19 inches, which I just recently found out is only the 5th percentile for newborns. At his two month appointment two days ago he had grown 3 inches already, putting him at the 25th percentile, which is a big jump. I’m confident that given more time he’ll catch up even more.

I won’t say try not to worry, because I know that’s impossible, but just make sure they keep an eye on it and I’m sure you’re little baby will be just perfect!

Laila says:

I am currently 32 weeks pregnant and I have recently discovered the same thing about my baby-to-come. His body is two weeks behind with respect to his head. They told me maybe not enough blood is reaching the baby so he prefers to supply his head more. I am so worried and wish you could give me some relief about how your baby looks like. Is he actually short or has his body caught up? Please reply soon.

Stephanie says:

Please don’t worry too much, Ariana. Just like Farah and Project Nursery, I was told Ginger that would be well over 9 pounds (and I was FREAKING OUT) but she was only 7 pounds 6 ounce at birth and she was 12 days late.

Also, my older daughter Chloe was born prematurely, so I was a little obsessed with tracking her growth in the beginning. I used an online growth calculator to plug in all of her measurements to see what percentile she was in and one day I got back a message saying that her head was dangerously large and that I should contact my health care provider right away! Turns out, she just had a big head (which I already knew – she was only five pounds and change at birth but I still needed two dozen stitches to put me back together after the fact!)

Ultrasound technology is a wonderful thing to have, but it isn’t perfect. Those measurements are all average measurements, and babies need to fall all along the spectrum for there to be an average.

Hope you get to meet the peanut soon!

Hang in there! My son was to be 9lbs – he was 7 lbs 1 oz. Waaaayyy off. He also has a really big head but his body is catching up. I just had to buy big shirts to fit over it. Sounds bad but he’s really cute, I swear. If anything I hope you look forward to our post on Monday about Jasper’s fab nursery on Project Nursery! Best of Luck and look forward to your next chapter..Being Mom???

Andrea says:

Late-pregnancy ultrasounds are notoriously innaccurate. Weight and measurements can be off 2 weeks in either direction, which would put your baby’s leg measurement right in the “normal” range. It is really hard to get good measurements when they’re all squished up! Do not put a lot of stock into this “bad news”… chances are your baby will be perfectly proportioned. The only way to tell for sure is to look at him when he’s born.

elizabeth says:


I came upon your website when I was looking for some inspiration for our new home in BA. Nice website and you are dedicated. I am the mother of 4 (ages 5-12) and everyone one of them had abnormal afp’s, and in a level 3 ultrasound my youngest appeared to have her lower intestine outside the body. ALL my kids were 100% normal with all there organs inside the body! I am a firm believer that while it is great to have a couple of ultrasounds during the pregnancy and amino if it is indicated, there is way too many of these tests and they standard deviations they use for normal are so narrow, that when there is some human error it can indicated something extremely wrong. I was actually told later that the intestine that appeared to be exterior was a foot! I know this is your first, but try to relax and take solace that if there was something seriously structurally wrong with your baby you would know. And dont let anyone tell you when you are going to have your baby..too bad if its inconvenient…thats why they dont like weekend deliveries…if its an emergency surgery they will have to call in one or two that are on call.

Sarah Rogers says:

When I went to my last ultra sound before Daphne’s birth, around 35 weeks, they did all the measurements and according to her head measurements she should have been born December 15 and the rest of her body, legs arms and whatever else they measured should have put her at January 13. Don’t ask me how they came up with a January 4 as her due date but they did and no one seemed too concerned with the disparity in dates. I don’t think your tech knew what she was doing. OH and Daphne was supposed to be around 8 1/2 llbs, she came out as 7llbs 4 oz. Try not to worry, keep busy and do all the last minute things that are needed. (Knowing you there are none ;)

Jenny says:

Awwww…I am sure that your baby is just fine. I can’t wait to meet him.

Farah says:

Don’t you worry about those BPP, All they are are estimates (to scare us into thinking things are not going as they should) .. I cannot tell you how many times Those Scans had me up in arms. If it makes you any more reassured I had a BPP the morning I delivered – Baby Boy was measuring close to 9 lbs in there – He was 7lbs 6 oz out side of the womb only hours after that bpp

mandoo says:

I’m so glad your midwife called back! The measurements could’ve been off for any number of reasons and there’s no reason to worry over what could and most likely will turn out to nothing! Hope Jasper comes soon!

ariana says:

Leah, Jeff’s cousin just said the same exact thing about Phelps! (which is also the name of the hospital I’m delivering at :)

I think because they have less staff on hand on the weekends. I’ll ask on Monday. As much as I DON’t want an induction, I must say that part of me is a little bit happy to know I wont’ have to wait until saturday or sunday. Particularly because my baby has a giant head (jk, I know the u/s is probably off). Also, if they wait until saturday, there’s a change I could be in labor until after 42 weeks, which means an OB would have to deliver me.

Leah says:

Well maybe jasper will be swimming machine like Michael phelps. I heard he had way long legs or torso that his actual height should allow. Jasper could be an olympic athlete!
Why do they not like to induce over a weekend?

ariana says:

Thanks guys, I’m trying really really hard not to stress. The midwife just called me because she knows how worried I was. She said she looked it up and ultrasound measurements of femur length can be up to 3 weeks off either way after 30 weeks. It was so sweet of her to call. That affirms at least one thing in all this, I love my midwives! I may not feel like I can totally stop worrying, but at least I know they care :)

Laura says:

Hang in there, Ariana, and try to stay focussed on your baby, and NOT what the hospital wants to do. You and your husband and baby will be in my thoughts.

Dawn says:

How horribly stressful! I’m so sorry you went through that and I know how much you will worry (just because it’s you). Do try to find some comfort in the fact that the medical professional you trust isn’t concerned. Also know that ultrasounds, while they are the best in utero technology we have, aren’t perfect and often result in mistakes. I cannot tell you how upset I was to hear we should return all of our newborn clothes because I was giving birth to a toddler. Noah was supposed to be AT LEAST 9 or 10 pounds. My little 7lb, 6oz turkey was tiny, and still is. He’s only in the 10th percentile for height and 20th for weight but you know what – he’s perfect and proportionate, although he may always be a little little. I don’t complain nearly as much when he insists on being carried, especially since his friends weigh upwards of 35 pounds and my little peanut tips the scales at 23.

Hang in there. It’s almost over and I’m sure Jasper is just perfect. Stay off of Google, it is evil. Try to have a nice weekend!