A baby born with a birth weight of less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces (2,500 grams) is considered to be one with a low birth weight. Low birth weight babies ring alarm bells as they are at an increased risk for health problems and lasting disabilities. Advancements made in the postnatal care of such babies have considerably brought down the number of deaths. However, a very small percentage of survivors develop mental and physical problems.
Premature birth and foetal growth retardation are the two major reasons why babies are born with low birth weight. A baby, who does not complete thirty-seven weeks in his or her mother’s womb, is called premature. The earlier the baby is born, the less likely it is to weigh normal. Babies who weigh less than 3 pounds, 5 ounces or 1,500 grams are considered to be under higher risk for health troubles. The root cause of pre-mature labour is not fully known. Pre-mature birth mostly takes place if it is a case of multiple pregnancy, if the mother already had a premature delivery, or if there is some or other problem inside the womb. Babies with birth defects are also found to be delivered prematurely.
Growth-restricted babies are small for their gestational age. They are also called ‘small-for-date’ babies. Some of these babies will be healthy, though they are under weight. If their parents are smaller than the average size, babies naturally will be smaller at birth. In certain cases, babies might be smaller due to some irregularity that occurred while they were still inside their mother’s womb.
Birth weight of the baby is also determined by the mother’s general health. If the mother suffers from high blood pressure or diabetes, the child is likely to be born with reduced weight. Children of women smokers are also in the danger zone. If the baby is both pre-mature and growth restricted, utmost care need to be provided.