World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Low birth weight


Low birth weight

Low birth weight (LBW) is defined as a birth weight of a liveborn infant of less than 2,500 g (5 pounds 8 ounces) regardless of gestational age.[1] Subcategories include very low birth weight (VLBW), which is less than 1500 g (3 pounds 5 ounces), and extremely low birth weight (ELBW), which is less than 1000 g (2 pounds 3 ounces).[2] Normal weight at term delivery is 2500–4200 g (5 pounds 8 ounces – 9 pounds 4 ounces).


  • Causes 1
    • Preterm birth 1.1
    • Being small for gestational age 1.2
    • Environmental factors 1.3
  • Effects 2
  • Epidemiology 3
  • References 4


LBW is either caused by preterm birth (that is, a low gestational age at birth, commonly defined as younger than 37 weeks of gestation) or the infant being small for gestational age (that is, a slow prenatal growth rate), or a combination of both.

In general, risk factors in the mother that may contribute to low birth weight include young ages, multiple pregnancies, previous LBW infants, poor nutrition, heart disease or hypertension, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, and insufficient prenatal care. Environmental risk factors include smoking, lead exposure, and other types of air pollutions.[3]

Preterm birth

Four different pathways have been identified that can result in preterm birth and have considerable evidence: precocious fetal endocrine activation, uterine overdistension, decidual bleeding, and intrauterine inflammation/infection.[4] From a practical point a number of factors have been identified that are associated with preterm birth, however, an association does not establish causality.

Being small for gestational age

Being small for gestational age can be constitutional, that is, without an underlying pathological cause, or it can be secondary to intrauterine growth restriction, which, in turn, can be secondary to many possible factors. For example, babies with congenital anomalies or chromosomal abnormalities are often associated with LBW. Problems with the placenta can prevent it from providing adequate oxygen and nutrients to the fetus. Infections during pregnancy that affect the fetus, such as rubella, cytomegalovirus, toxoplasmosis, and syphilis, may also affect the baby's weight.

Environmental factors

While active maternal tobacco smoking has well established adverse perinatal outcomes such as LBW, that mothers who smoke during pregnancy are twice as likely to give birth to low-birth weight infants. Review on the effects of passive maternal smoking, also called environmental tobacco exposure (ETS), demonstrated that increased risks of infants with LBW were more likely to be expected in ETS-exposed mothers.[5][6]

Regarding environmental toxins in pregnancy, elevated blood lead levels in pregnant women, even those well below 10 ug/dL can cause miscarriage, premature birth, and LBW in the offspring. With 10 ug/dL as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's “level of concern”, this cut-off value really needs to arise more attentions and implementations in the future.[7]

The combustion products of solid fuel in developing countries can cause many adverse health issues in people. Because a majority of pregnant women in developing countries, where rate of LBW is high, are heavily exposed to indoor air pollution, increased relative risk translates into substantial population attributable risk of 21% of LBW.[8]

A correlation between maternal exposure to CO and low birth weight has been reported that the effect on birth weight of increased ambient CO was as large as the effect of the mother smoking a pack of cigarettes per day during pregnancy.[9] It has been revealed that adverse reproductive effects (e.g., risk for LBW) were correlated with maternal exposure to air pollution combustion emissions in Eastern Europe and North America.[10] Mercury is a known toxic heavy metal that can harm fetal growth and health, and there has been evidence showing that exposure to mercury (via consumption of large oily fish) during pregnancy may be related to higher risks of LBW in the offspring.[11]

It was revealed that, exposure of pregnant women to airplane noise was found to be associated with low birth weight. Aircraft noise exposure caused adverse effects on fetal growth leading to low birth weight and preterm infants.[12][13]


LBW is closely associated with fetal and Perinatal mortality and Morbidity, inhibited growth and cognitive development, and chronic diseases later in life. At the population level, the proportion of babies with a LBW is an indicator of a multifaceted public-health problem that includes long-term maternal malnutrition, ill health, hard work and poor health care in pregnancy. On an individual basis, LBW is an important predictor of newborn health and survival and is associated with higher risk of infant and childhood mortality.[14]

Low birth weight constitutes as sixty to eighty percent of the infant mortality rate in developing countries. Infant mortality due to low birth weight is usually directly causal, stemming from other medical complications such as preterm birth, poor maternal nutritional status, lack of prenatal care, maternal sickness during pregnancy, and an unhygienic home environment.[15][16] According to an analysis by University of Oregon, reduced brain volume in children is also tied to low birth-weight.[17][18]


A study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) found that of the 3.8 million births that occurred in the United States in 2011, approximately 6.1% (231,900) were diagnosed with low birth weight (<2,500 g). Approximately 49,300 newborns (1.3%) weighed less than 1,500 grams (VLBW).[19]


  1. ^ P07 - Disorders related to short gestation and low birth weight in ICD-10
  2. ^ "eMedicine - Extremely Low Birth Weight Infant : Article by KN Siva Subramanian, MD". Retrieved 2007-11-28. 
  3. ^ "Labor and delivery - Low Birth Weight". 2008-10-22. Retrieved 2011-01-05. 
  4. ^ Simhan HN, Caritis SN (2007). "Prevention of Preterm Delivery".  
  5. ^ Knopik VS. Maternal smoking during pregnancy and child outcomes: real or spurious effect? Dev Neuropsychol. 2009;34(1):1-36.
  6. ^ Salmasi G, Grady R, Jones J, et al. Environmental tobacco smoke exposure and perinatal outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analyses. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2010;89(4):423-41.
  7. ^ Cleveland LM, Minter ML, Cobb KA, et al. Lead hazards for pregnant women and children: part 1: immigrants and the poor shoulder most of the burden of lead exposure in this country. Part 1 of a two-part article details how exposure happens, whom it affects, and the harm it can do. Am J Nurs. 2008 Oct;108(10):40-9
  8. ^ Pope DP, Mishra V, Thompson L, et al. Risk of low birth weight and stillbirth associated with indoor air pollution from solid fuel use in developing countries. Epidemiol Rev. 2010 Apr;32(1):70-81
  9. ^ Lewtas J. Air pollution combustion emissions: characterization of causative agents and mechanisms associated with cancer, reproductive, and cardiovascular effects. Mutat Res. 2007 Nov-Dec;636(1-3):95-133.
  10. ^ Townsend CL, Maynard RL (Oct 2002). "Effects on health of prolonged exposure to low concentrations of carbon monoxide". Occup Environ Med. 59 (10): 708–11.  
  11. ^ Gochfeld M, Burger J (Aug 2005). "Good fish/bad fish: a composite benefit-risk by dose curve". Neurotoxicology 26 (4): 511–20.  
  12. ^ Kawada T (Feb 2004). "The effect of noise on the health of children". J Nippon Med Sch. 71 (1): 5–10.  
  13. ^ Matsui T, Matsuno T, Ashimine K, et al. (Sep 2003). "Association between the rates of low birth-weight and/or preterm infants and aircraft noise exposure". Nippon Eiseigaku Zasshi 58 (3): 385–94.  
  14. ^ Stevens-Simon C, Orleans M (Sep 1999). "Low-birthweight prevention programs: the enigma of failure". Birth 26 (3): 184–91.  
  15. ^ Andrews, K.M.; Brouillette, D.B; Brouillette, R.T. "Mortality, Infant". Elsevier Inc. 
  16. ^ Norton, M (2005). "New evidence on birth spacing: promising findings for improving newborn, infant, child, and maternal health". International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics 89: S1–S6.  
  17. ^ "Baby Weight Growth Chart". Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  18. ^ "Reduced brain volume in kids with low birth-weight tied to academic struggles, University of Oregon". Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  19. ^ Kowlessar N.M., Jiang H.J., and Steiner C. Hospital Stays for Newborns, 2011. HCUP Statistical Brief #163. October 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. [1]
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.