Babies with low birth weight in India: Incidence, causes and how to avoid

The health of a newborn baby is directly proportional to the health and nutritional status of the mother.

Babies with low birth weight in India:  Incidence, causes and how to avoid
Low Birth Weight Babies In India

What is low birth weight?

Babies with low birth weight is a term that is used to describe those babies who are born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces (2,500 grams) at the time of birth. Generally, an average newborn weighs about 8 pounds. There can be a chance that a low-birth-weight baby may be healthy. But a low-birth-weight baby can also have various serious health issues.

What causes low birth weight?

A low birth weight baby is most often caused by being born too early that is premature birth, which generally means before 37 weeks of pregnancy. As a result, a premature baby has less time in the mother's womb (uterus) to grow and gain weight. Baby gains much of his weight during the last weeks of pregnancy.

Another reason for low birth weight in babies is a health state called intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). This commonly happens when a baby does not grow well during pregnancy week in the womb. It may be because of problems with the placenta, the mother's health, or the baby's health. Babies can have IUGR and be:

  • Full term: Born between 37 to 41 weeks of pregnancy. These babies may be physically mature, but small in size.
  • Premature: These babies are both kind of problems that is very small and physically immature.

Which babies are at risk for low birth weight?

Along with premature birth and IUGR issues, things that affect the pregnant woman increases the chances of the risk of giving birth to a low birth weight baby may include:

  • Infection during pregnancy
  • Not gaining enough weight during pregnancy
  • Previous pregnancy with a low-birth-weight baby
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Age less than 17 or more than 35 years

What are the symptoms of low birth weight?

In addition to having weight less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces, babies with low birth weight look much smaller in size as compared to the babies of normal birth weight. A low-birth-weight baby's head sometime may look bigger than the rest of his or her whole body. The baby often looks thin with little body fat.

Babies born with very low birth weight are at risk for long-term complications and disability. Long-term complications may include:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Developmental delay 

Can low birth weight be prevented?

There are many babies that are surviving even though they are born early and are very small in size. This is because of advances in medical treatments to care for sick and premature babies. But preventing preterm births is one of the best ways to prevent babies born with low birth weight.

Continuous prenatal care is the best way to prevent preterm births and low-birth-weight babies. At prenatal visits to the doctor, the healthcare provider will check the health of you and your baby. It is important to:

  • Follow a healthy diet during pregnancy: This will assist pregnant women to gain enough weight to help their baby grow and even help them stay healthy. 
  • Not drink alcohol, smoke, or use drugs: Consumption of all of these can cause low birth weight and other problems for baby in the womb.