Low birth weight, causes and control

Low birth weight, causes and control

I am sure you have heard a number of discussion about giving birth to a child with low birth weight. Low birth weight have been on health discussion because people are curious to know if it can impact any health challenges to new born. I am from Africa and people have different myths going on about giving birth to low birth weight child, some connect it to superstition.

Low birth weight, causes and control

Giving birth to a child with body weight less than 2500 grams (5.5 pounds), that is below 2.5 kg can simply be defined as low birth weight. An average new born usually weighs about 8 pounds. Different from what many know, a low birth weight baby can be healthy, but also they can be challenged with many serious health problems [Stanfordchildrens.org].

The UNICEF report on Low birth weight of 2004 indicates that new born babies less than 2,500 grams are approximately 20 times more likely to die than heavier babies, more common in developing countries than in the developed countries.

What are the causes for low birth weight?

  • A baby’s low weight at birth is either the result of preterm birth (before 37 weeks of gestation) or due to restricted foetal (intra uterine) growth [UNICEF, 2004]
  • Birth weight is affected to a great extent by the mother’s own foetal growth and her diet from birth to pregnancy and thus her body composition at conception. [UNICEF, 2004]
  • Mothers in deprived socio-economic conditions frequently have low birth weight infants. In these settings, the infant’s low birth weight stems primarily from the mother’s poor nutrition and health over a long period of time, including during pregnancy [UNICEF, 2004]
  • The mother’s life style (alcohol, tobacco or drug abuse) and other exposures (malaria, HIV or syphilis) or complications such as hypertension [UNICEF, 2004]

What are the consequences of low birth weight?

  • Low birth weight due to restricted foetal growth affects the person throughout life and is associated with poor growth in childhood and a higher incidence of adult diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases [UNICEF 2004]
  • Another risk for girls is having smaller babies when they become mothers [UNICEF 2004]

How can low birth weight be controlled?

  • Calcium supplementation during pregnancy for women with low calcium intake has been identified as one of the effective nutritional interventions because it reduces the incidence of pre-eclampsia and may also reduce the rate of preterm birth which is a cause of low birth weight [WHO,2014]
  • Changes in life style including promotion of smoking cessation
  • Regular prenatal care including a healthy diet during pregnancy and birth spacing

Figures, percentage of infants low birth weight [WHO, 2014]

  • Sub Saharan Africa 13
  • Eastern and Southern Africa 11
  • West and Central Africa 14
  • South Asia 28
  • Latin America and Caribbean 9
  • Least developed countries 13
  • Read about e-clampsia
  • Read about preterm birth

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