Amongst all the concerns of parents, one of their major concerns happens to be the low birth weight in babies. It is a term used for babies who weigh less than 2.5 kilograms at birth. Approximately three out of every 500 babies are born with a low birth weight. However, the cause of this low weight in babies is more important that the weight itself. While some babies are born small without any medical problem, others do have some serious underlying cause.
Here are the top 10 reasons why babies are born underweight:
#1. Premature Birth
One of the most common causes of low birth weight in babies is premature delivery. It is a term used to signify babies who are born before 37 weeks. Since their development is incomplete, they weight low at birth and often are kept in a neonatal intensive care unit for some weeks before they can begin to function on their own.
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#2. Fetal Infections
Another common cause of low birth weight in babies can be an infection caught by the developing fetus. Various parasitic infections such as rubella, chickenpox, cytomegalovirus and toxoplasmosis transfer to the infant from the mother and give rise to birth anomalies, deformations and growth problems. These threaten the development of the infant, thus causing low birth weight. Moreover, even certain drugs that are used to combat these infections, can affect an infant’s birth weight.
#3. Placenta related complications
At times, if the mother happens to be affected by various placental complications such as placenta previa or preeclampsia, then the supply of nutrients to the fetus gets hampered and this results in low birth weight. Various developmental problems can occur in the infant if the blood supply to the fetus is restricted.
#4. Multiple Pregnancy
If a mother happens to be carrying more than one child, then the individual weight of the child might be less than 2.5 kilograms. When there is more than one baby in the uterus, they put extra strain on it and struggle for nutrients. The added pressure on mother’s body can cause some deficiencies.
It is no hidden fact that pregnant women require proper mental, emotional and physical rest, especially when they’re close to labor. During pregnancy, a woman’s body works over time and extra blood is pumped, thus making her tired and stressed. However, a number of the pregnant women work for a living and cannot give up their jobs, so they continue working right up till delivery. This toil can put extra pressure on a woman’s body, thus intrude with proper development of the fetus and full-term delivery. At times, stress can also be caused by a lack of emotional support or exposure to harmful ingredients.
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#6. Substance Abuse By Mother
Alcohol, drugs, and smoking are a total no-no during pregnancy. If an expecting woman consumes alcohol or illegal drugs such as marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine or heroin, it can hamper the complete development of fetus and also lead to certain birth defects. Consumption of alcohol during pregnancy, even in restricted amounts, can lead to fetal alcohol syndrome, which retards the development of fetus and causes learning problems. The reduced flow of oxygen to fetus, caused by substance abuse, is one of the major reasons for low birth weight in developed countries.
#7. Lack of Nutrition
Developing babies require constant, rich supply of essential nutrients from the mother. For example, Vitamin C helps in developing the muscles, bones, and teeth of babies, the Folic acid helps in forming the brain and spinal cord and so on. A diet rich in fruits, green leafy vegetables, dairy, nuts, lentils, lean meats, and grains is crucial for the birth of a healthy baby. Expecting women, who do not consume such a diet and rather eat foods low in nutritional value, often give birth to underweight babies.
Another reason can also be limiting the weight gain during pregnancy. If a woman with average weight does not gain around 25-30 pounds during pregnancy, it is a clear indication of low birth weight baby. It might also lead to preterm delivery and a host of other complications. In order to provide for complete nutrition, women must also consume supplements along with natural diet, after consulting a professional.
#8. Cervix or uterus related problems
The cervix is the opening to the uterus, which secures the baby inside and keeps germs away. However, during cervical incompetence, the cervix is not able to close properly and as the baby increases in size, there is added strain on the cervix, leading to increased chances of preterm labor and childbirth. Generally, the cervix of a woman with cervical incompetence is sewn (cerclage) in order to prevent preterm labor.
Another common cause for low birth weight can be uterine abnormalities and fibroids. For instance, at times, the uterus might not be in the normal oval shape and might have two separate chambers. If the fetus happens to develop in any of these two chambers, then he is left with little space to grow fully. This might lead to preterm birth or even miscarriage.
#9. Maternal Ailments
In order to provide for a healthy childbirth, it is essential that the mother is healthy herself. Women, who have severe conditions like blood pressure, diabetes, kidney problems or heart diseases, often tend to experience premature delivery. Such pregnancies are often tough, with a host of complications at various stages. It is highly advisable for such women to follow a strict diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Such women must work closely under the guidance of a professional.
Studies have shown that a history of premature or low birth weight deliveries increases the likelihood of another low birth weight delivery in the future. The underlying cause of this has not been clearly identified.
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How Does Low Birth Weight Affect Babies?
At times, low birth weight might pose no threat to the new born baby, especially when it was a full-term delivery with no medical issues. However, at other times, if the child happens to be delivered before 37 weeks or if the child was born full-term but with some medical issues, then a low birth weight can pose some serious threats. Here are some conditions that a low birth weight baby might be affected with:
- Complications in the immune system
- Complications in the functioning of the lungs
- Thickening of the blood (Polycythaemia)
- Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS)
- Low Blood Glucose (Hypoglycaemia)
The seriousness of these conditions depends to a great extent upon how low the weight of the baby is, at the time of birth. Timely detection of a preterm delivery and proper breastfeeding can help combat the seriousness of the issue.
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