Skip directly to searchSkip directly to the site navigationSkip directly to the page's main content

Low Birth Weight

Birth weight is the first weight of the newborn obtained after birth. A baby is considered low birth-weight when its weight is less than 5.5 lbs (2500 grams) at birth.
A low-birth-weight baby can be born too small, too early, or both. These conditions often have separate causes. Specific factors may be related to one of these conditions but not the other. For example, smoking during pregnancy has been found to be more related to babies born too small than born too early. It is more helpful to look at these conditions of low birth weight separately rather than just the larger category of low birth weight babies.
Compared to babies of normal weight, low-birth-weight babies may be at increased risk for illness from 28 weeks of gestation through the first six days of the baby's life, infections, and the longer-term consequences of impaired development, such as delayed physical and social development or learning disabilities.
Low birthweight increases the risk for infant mortality and morbidity. As birthweight decreases, the risk for death increases. Low birthweight infants who survive often require intensive care at birth, may develop chronic illnesses, and later may require special education services. Health care costs and length of hospital stay are higher for low birthweight infants.
Low Birth Weight is associated with a number of exposure risk factors
  • Maternal smoking.
  • Alcohol consumption.
  • Inadequate weight gain/diet during pregnancy.
  • Exposure to air pollution (both indoor and outdoor).
  • Exposure to drinking water contaminated with chemical disinfection by-products or lead.
A number of studies are being conducted to improve our understanding of these risks and learn how to prevent it. These studies look at how genes, hormonal changes, maternal stress, racism, occupational and environmental factors, and infections may contribute to prematurity needed before tailored interventions can be developed.
Early and continuous prenatal care helps identify conditions and behavior that can result in low birth weight babies, such as smoking, drug and alcohol abuse, inadequate weight gain during pregnancy, and repeat pregnancy in six months or less.
There are some steps a woman can take to reduce her risk of having a low-birth-weight baby.
  • Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke, (external Web site).
  • Avoid drinking alcohol.
  • See your health care provider for a medical check-up before pregnancy.
  • Work with your health care provider to control diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
  • Get prenatal care early, as soon as you think you may be pregnant, and throughout the pregnancy.
  • Discuss concerns during pregnancy with your health care provider, and seek medical attention for any warning signs or symptoms of preterm labor.
  • Take a daily multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid, starting before and throughout pregnancy.
  • Learn about the quality of the water you drink.
  • Learn about the quality of the air you breathe.
  • Learn about the quality of the food you eat.
The NM EPHT website is supported by Cooperative Agreement Number, 6 NUE1EH001354 (previously, 5 U38EH000949), funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC or do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Mon, 17 January 2022 12:02:53 from New Mexico EPHT Tracking Public Web site: ".

Content updated: Thu, 4 Jun 2020 16:26:03 MDT