Baby, Pregnancy

Infant Low Birth Weight – Causes, Risks & Management

MAYWOOD, IL - UNDATED: In this handout photo provided by Loyola University Medical Center, Rumaisa Rahman rests in her crib at Loyola University Medical Center three weeks after her birth in Maywood, Illinois. Rumaisa, born September 19, 2004 at 8.6 ounces, is the smallest known surviving baby. Hiba, her fraternal twin sister, weighed 1 pound, 4 ounces. (Photo by Loyola Univ. Medical Center via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Rumaisa Rahman

A study conducted by US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) a few years ago established that of the 3.8 million births recorded in the US in 2011, 6.1% representing about 231,900 infants were born with low birth weight with 1.3% representing about 49,300 infants born with extremely low birth weight. The situation is similar in the UK where six out of every 100 infants are born with low birth weight.

This is just but a picture of what happens in other regions of the world. The situation is believed to be worse in developing countries where majority of expecting mothers living in rural areas lack quality pregnancy care.

Low birth weight refers to infants born alive but weigh less than 2.5 kg, which is the minimum a newborn should weigh. Such low weight is often recorded of infants born prematurely and those born of young mothers below 18 years.


There are various reasons why you can give birth to an infant weighing low or extremely low. They include:
Your age – Attaining pregnancy at a young age increases the risk of giving birth to an infant with extremely low birth weight because of your immature body system in regard to motherhood.
Time of delivery – Giving birth prematurely before term means giving birth to an infant who has not yet developed fully.
Multiple deliveries – Having twins or more pregnancy increases your risk of giving birth to infants with extremely low birth weight because they do not have ample room in the womb for growth.
Medical conditions – Having pregnancy complications that causes your unborn baby to develop a medical condition automatically means giving birth either prematurely or at term but with low birth weight.
Your lifestyle – Smoking cigarettes or exposing yourself to hazardous environmental factors affects your pregnancy negatively, leading to low birth weight when you eventually give birth.
Poor diet – Being choosy while pregnant means denying your unborn baby vital nutrients necessary for growth and development, which easily leads to delivering an infant with low birth weight.
Genetic – You are most likely to give birth to an infant with low birth weight in case you or your spouse/partner is from a family with a history of low birth weight.


Low birth weight contributes to about 40% of infant mortality across the world and more so in developing countries. Apart from infants born of parents whose families have a history of low birth weight, all other infants born with low weight do remain exposed to respiratory distress syndrome, which causes breathing problems.

Other risks include constant infections, feeding problems, low blood sugar and increased levels of red blood cells, which makes blood very thick. Infants with low birth weight also tend to become obese when they live to become adults.

Low birth weight can be treated depending on diagnosed cause. You can easily of great help to your infant by regularly breastfeeding him/her and ensuring that you stick to a healthy diet when he/she eventually grows up.

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