Low birth weight is a term used to describe babies who are born weighing less than 2,500 grams (5 pounds, 8 ounces). Some babies with low birth weight are healthy, even though they’re small. But being low in birth weight can cause serious health problems for some babies. A baby with low birth weight may have trouble eating, gaining weight, and fighting off infections. Some low birth-weight babies may have long-term health problems, too.
When it comes to low birth weight in newborns, the primary causative factor is usually premature birth, which is before 37 weeks gestation. A baby that has been born early often gets less time in the mother’s uterus to grow and gain weight. Most of the foetus’s weight is gained during the latter part of the mother’s pregnancy. However, there can also be other factors that can lead to low birth weight in infants.
Let’s look at the top 5 factors that can, directly and indirectly, lead to low birth weight in newborns.
If a mom is carrying twins, triplets, or more than three infants, the probability of the baby being underweight increases significantly. Multiple pregnancies can lead to excess stress on the uterus because of the babies trying to share the available nutrition.
Some viral and parasitic infections can actually lead to foetal problems like slow growth or even birth defects. Following are some infections that one should be aware of:
- Toxoplasmosis: Infection with this parasite during pregnancy is often associated with loss of hearing or sight and even brain defects.
- Chickenpox: Being exposed to this virus during the first or second trimester is associated with suffering from congenital varicella syndrome, which can include scarring, limb malformation, growth problems, and mental disabilities.
- Rubella: Also called German Measles, it can cause birth defects like heart problems, sight, hearing, and mental retardation.
- Cytomegalovirus: This is a common herpes virus that is present in bodily fluids. It has been associated with disabilities like neural tube defects and Down syndrome.
Consuming alcohol or other drugs during pregnancy can be extremely dangerous as they release chemicals into the placenta that can reduce the amount of oxygen supplied to the body. This may lead to inhibition of growth among babies.
One significant cause of low birth weight is pre-eclampsia that brings with it high blood pressure and protein in the urine. This disease is dangerous because it is not very well-understood by modern science. It mostly affects older moms, first-time moms and moms with multiple children. This disease cuts off nutrients to infants and causes deadly seizures among mothers. Immediate delivery is the only definite way to save both mom and baby. Other symptoms of pre-eclampsia include swelling in the hands, face or feet, blurred vision, face or feet, and abdominal pain.
Pregnancy is a sensitive time for both women and child. In pregnancy, women’s bodies pump 40-50% more blood than usual, with their hearts working 30-50% harder, making them feel tired and uncomfortable. Also, many pregnant women work for a living, some often putting in long work hours and standing for long durations. The toiling can add extra stress on pregnancy, interfering with foetal growth and full-term delivery. Other factors that can create stress during pregnancy are exposure to harmful chemicals or a lack of emotional support from family and friends.
Taking the right precautions during pregnancy is essential to ensure the good health of both the mother and the child during pregnancy. The above-stated reasons can be critical contributors towards low birth weight in newborns. Ensuring proper nutrition and the right care for both the mother and the child will help reduce the probability of the baby being underweight on delivery.