Low birth weight and child development problems

Share on Pinterest
Researchers say birth weight may be more strongly linked to childhood developmental problems than previously thought. Jill Lehmann Photography/Getty Images
  • Researchers say low birth weight may be a bigger factor in child development problems than previously thought.
  • They report that infants born in the lowest 25th percentile of birth weight are more likely to develop fine motor and communication problems.
  • Experts say more programs are needed to ensure pregnant women can achieve healthy eating, which can improve the overall health and birth weight of their babies.

New research suggests that more babies with low birth weight may be at risk for developmental difficulties than previously thought.

Previous studies have shown that infants with a birth weight of less than 10%, which includes most premature babies, are at risk of not reaching developmental milestones and having other developmental difficulties.

However, the new study by scientists from the University of Coventry in the UK reports that infants with a birth weight of less than 25% may also face similar problems.

Researchers looked at a group of 600,000 children between the ages of around 2 and 3 over a 12-year period. They reported that those born in the lowest quartile for weight were more likely to have fine motor, gross motor and communication difficulties than children born with higher weights.

This birth weight marker could “be used by healthcare workers (such as paediatricians, health visitors, and child health nurses) as an additional risk ‘indicator’ for early childhood development problems. childhood and to alert parents to children who may need additional supervision and support to achieve their full developmental potential,” the study authors write.

“This is not a surprising finding, but highlights the need for vigilance of a different subset of low birth weight babies, including those who are not the lowest weight but those who are just above,” said Dr. Danelle Fisher, FAAP, a pediatrician and chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California.

“Low birth weight can be caused by a number of reasons, particularly infections or chromosomal abnormalities, but it can also be a sign of maternal malnutrition or other maternal conditions,” a- she told Healthline.

Dr. Gina Posner, a pediatrician at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in California, agreed.

“Poor prenatal nutrition, the expectant mother’s use of alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs, the expectant mother’s chronic illnesses, and the expectant mother’s high blood pressure or low weight are all factors that contribute to low baby’s weight at birth,” she told Healthline.

“To encourage babies to a healthier weight, mothers-to-be should be instructed to take care of them during the gestation period and to have good prenatal care,” Fisher said.

But what does that imply?

At the individual level, some research has shown that following a healthy diet that ranks high on the U.S. Department of Agriculture‘s Healthy Eating Index (score of 70 or higher) was associated with a 67% lower risk. % fetal growth retardation and at a 54% lower risk. high blood pressure during pregnancy, which is also associated with low birth weight.

There is no single diet to achieve these scores, but experts emphasize fruits and whole grains as well as vegetables, seafood and plant-based proteins over foods such as added sugars and saturated fats.

However, obtaining this increased monitoring and support goes beyond individual efforts. Around one in four mothers in the United States are not receiving the early, adequate, and ongoing prenatal care that would help reduce the number of low birth weight babies.

And those numbers vary by ethnicity, with 82% of non-Hispanic white women receiving prenatal care in the first trimester, compared to 67% of non-Hispanic black women and 72% of Hispanic women.

“Although it is mostly unrecognized, babies who are slight to moderately small at birth are key contributors to the burden of childhood developmental problems,” said Dr. Abiodun Adanikin, obstetrician and assistant professor in Coventry and lead author of the study, in a press release. “They may need closer monitoring and increased support to reduce the risk of developmental problems.”

Comments are closed.