Low Birth Weight

What is low birth weight?

The normal range of birth weight is from 5.5 to 8.75 pounds. Any baby weighing less than 5.5 pounds is low birth weight (LBW). Delivery after the 37thweek of pregnancy is considered “at term”. A preterm baby has less time to grow and gain weight which is one of the main reasons for LBW.


Why is low birth weight bad?

Complications from prematurity and low birth weight are the leading cause of death for children under five around the world. Some babies with low birthweight are healthy even though they are small. Some may have trouble eating, gaining weight and fighting off infections. Many who survive low birth weight may later suffer from disabilities such as learning problems, hearing impairment and vision issues.


What are some of the risk factors for LBW?

· Preterm labor – before 37 weeks

· Chronic maternal health conditions

· Certain medications

· Certain infections

· Not gaining enough weight during pregnancy

· Being pregnant with multiples - twins, triplets, etc.

· Lifestyle – smoking, drinking alcohol, street drugs and abusing prescription medications

· Low socioeconomic status

· Intimate partner violence

· Age and race - African Americans and those younger than 17 or older than 35


What can help prevent low birth weight?

· Early and regular prenatal care

· Good maternal nutrition

· Adequate eight gain

· Avoid alcohol, drugs and smoking

· Controlling current medical conditions


Where do I start?

Talk with your health care provider about how you can have a healthy pregnancy and how you can increase your chances of having a healthy weight baby! Also, remember to take advantage of Smart Beginnings Virginia Peninsula as a place to find out about all the Prenatal Resources on the Peninsula.


-Jenny Corley

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