Low Birth Weight Babies Suffer Significant Health Compromise
According to WHO figures, 30 million low-birth-weight babies are born annually, i.e. 23.8% of all births. Low birth weight is defined as the weight of live-born baby less than 2,500 g.
An average Indian baby weighs about 2800 gms when born at full term. Low birth weight is a major determinant of mortality, morbidity and disability in infancy and childhood. It has a long-term impact on health outcomes in adult life.
A recent study accessed the perinatal outcomes (i.e. occurring during the period around birth) associated with low birth weight. Low Birth Weight (LBW) infants showed more frequently signs of perinatal complications like:
• Abnormal amniotic fluid volume: Abnormalities in the volume of the nourishing and protecting liquid called amniotic fluid.
• Abnormal patterns of heart rate of the foetus
• Malformation of foetus
• Lower APGAR scores: APGAR score is used to assess the health of new born babies; low scores indicate poor prognosis
• Lower gestational age at birth: Premature births
LBW is a key issue in public health, especially for developing countries. It is associated with adverse health outcomes throughout life, from infancy to adulthood.
LBW babies are prone to develop heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and type2 diabetes later in life. LBW is closely associated with preterm birth (i.e. birth of a baby before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy)
The recent trend of a more interventionist obstetric practice may be responsible for this. LBW infants are more frequently delivered after an induced labor or by elective cesarean section.
A more strict attention should be paid on prenatal assistance as a whole. Greater stress needs to be laid on neonatal care. The quality of neonatal care could make difference in future long-term outcomes for very low birth weight infants.
Source: Perinatal outcomes associated with low birth weight in a historical cohort; Pedro R Coutinho et al; BMC Reproductive Health.