Some infants face a challenging beginning due to a condition known as “low birth weight”. Low birth weight babies weighing less than 5.5 pounds (2.5 kilograms) pose unique challenges for parents and caregivers.

In 2017, UNICEF reported that over 20 million infants worldwide were born with low birth weight, comprising 15% of all births.

More than 95% of these babies were born in middle- and low-income countries, with Asia, Africa, and Latin America being the most affected regions.

Let’s explore the causes of low birth weight infants.

What is low birth weight?

What is low birth weight?

A newborn with a birthweight of less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces is considered to have a low birthweight.

Your newborn will be assigned one of the following categories of birth weight when he or she is born;

Low birth weight facts

Despite their small size, some low birthweight babies are healthy.

However, some infants may experience major health issues as a result of being underweight at birth.

When a baby is born, their size can affect their ability to feed, acquire weight, and fight off diseases.

Some people may also experience long-term health issues.

What causes low birth weight babies?

What causes low birth weight babies

Low birth weight (LBW) babies can be born for a variety of reasons, and often, it is a result of multiple contributing factors

Understanding these causes is essential for identifying and addressing risk factors to promote healthier pregnancies.

Here are the 8 major causes of low birth weight babies:

1. Premature birth

Premature birth, also known as preterm birth, is one of the leading causes of low birth weight.

Babies born before 37 weeks of gestation may not have had enough time to fully develop in the womb, leading to lower birth weights.

2. Fetal Growth Restriction

A newborn may occasionally develop Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR), which prevents them from achieving a healthy birth weight.

Genetic factors, maternal health difficulties, or placental disorders could all be to blame for this.

3. Multiple pregnancies

Carrying many fetuses (twins, triplets, etc.) increases the chance that the baby will be born underweight, particularly if the pregnancy is not closely watched or if difficulties occur.

4. Maternal factors

The health conditions, age factor, and lifestyle of the mother play a significant role in the baby’s birth weight.

Poor maternal nutrition, inadequate weight gain during pregnancy, substance abuse, smoking, and certain medical conditions can contribute to low birth weight.

5. Illnesses related to infections

Pregnancy-related diseases, like urinary tract infections or specific viral infections, might hinder the baby’s growth and development, which can result in low birth weight.

6. Placental problems

Obstacles in the placenta can hinder the fetus’s ability to receive oxygen and nutrients, which can have an effect on its growth and development.

7. Environmental factors

Low birth weights can result from external factors that impair fetal growth, such as stress, pollution, and environmental pollutants.

8. Genetic factors

Particularly when there is a family history of low birth weight children, genetic factors may affect a baby’s weight at birth.

Your doctor may recommend more frequent ultrasounds (every 2 to 4 weeks) to monitor your baby’s progress if they believe it is being hampered.

Your doctor might also perform additional exams including heart-rate monitoring and checks for infections or birth abnormalities.

Premature birth is more prevalent in babies who suffer from birth problems.

Maternal age and low birth weight

Maternal age and low birth weight

The age of expectant mothers significantly influences the likelihood of low birth weight in newborns.

Very young and older mothers face distinct risks, impacting maternal and infant health outcomes.

Teenage mothers

Adolescent pregnancies, especially those under 17, are more likely to result in low birth weight babies.

Older mothers

Women conceiving after 35 also face increased risk.

Advanced maternal age can be associated with health factors like diabetes or hypertension, impacting fetal growth and potentially leading to low birth weight.

To promote healthier pregnancies, both young and older expectant mothers need appropriate prenatal care, proper nutrition, and open communication with healthcare providers.

Early detection and timely interventions are essential for maternal and fetal well-being.

Preeclampsia and low birth weight

Preeclampsia and low birth weight

Preeclampsia is a potentially severe pregnancy complication characterized by elevated blood pressure and organ damage, often affecting the liver and kidneys.

Preeclampsia occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy, posing significant risks to both the mother and the developing fetus.

While its exact cause remains unclear, researchers believe it may be linked to issues with the placenta.

Preeclampsia can cause the blood arteries supplying the placenta to narrow, limiting blood flow, oxygen, and important nutrients to the developing fetus, resulting in stunted growth and an increased risk of low birth weight.

In severe situations, it may cause premature labor, increasing the chance of the baby being delivered before reaching full term.

low birth weight baby
Because of developments in medical treatment and interventions, healthcare providers give specialized care and support for low birth weight babies, allowing them to flourish despite the hurdles faced throughout pregnancy.

Winding thoughts from Jammi Scans

To summarise, knowing low birth weight is critical for both expectant parents and healthcare practitioners since it offers light on the complexity surrounding newborn health.

Our cutting-edge ultrasound and imaging services offer detailed insights into fetal development, ensuring early detection of potential complications.

Book your appointment today and let us be part of your journey toward a healthy and joyful pregnancy

5/5 - (3 votes)

Dr. Deepthi Jammi (Director, Jammi Scans) is a qualified OB/GYN and Post-Doc in Maternal Fetal Medicine. As a pregnancy ultrasound expert, she is passionate about healthy pregnancies and works towards spreading awareness on the latest diagnostic options available for parents to choose from. Dr.Deepthi has received gold medals and awards in Fetal Medicine at international and national conferences, and has appeared in numerous prestigious regional magazines and TV interviews.

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