Growth Percentile Charts Explained

WRITTEN BY: Pediatrics
Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Growth percentile charts have been used since 1977 when the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) introduced them as a tool for pediatricians to measure and monitor a child’s growth. For children zero to two years of age, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a new growth standard in 2006 that is currently used today. These charts allow physicians to compare one child’s growth to the full range of optimal growth.

Growth charts are gender-specific and compare information, including:

  • Length-for-age
  • Weight-for-age
  • Weight for length
  • Head circumference

These charts are just one tool that a pediatrician will use to evaluate the health of a child. At each visit the pediatrician will measure:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Head circumference

The information gathered is then placed on to the growth chart grid and compared to the normal range. It’s important to note that there is a wide range of what is considered normal. In fact any percentile can be considered normal, as long as a child continues to follow that percentile or above. If a child’s growth follows the curve of the chart, it indicates that they are getting the correct nutrition and their growth is progressing as expected.

If a child continues to drop in percentile on the growth chart, this could be cause for concern. Dropping may indicate that they are not getting adequate nutrition or that further testing should be done to evaluate what may be impacting their growth.

It is important to ask your pediatrician questions about your child’s growth and development, including any concerns you may have about their overall health.



Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC has helped establish the standards of excellence in pediatric care. Renowned for its outstanding clinical services, research programs, and medical education, Children’s Hospital was designed with input from physicians, nurses, and families, to ensure that patients receive quality, family-centered care in a comfortable setting. Read More