Amongst all the concerns of parents, the most important concern always happens to be low birth weight in babies. It is a term used for babies who weigh less than 2.5 kilograms at birth. Approximately 3 out of every 500 babies are born with low birth weight. The reason why babies have low weight is more important than the low weight itself. While some babies are born small without any medical problem, others do have some serious underlying cause. Find out the main reasons for low birth weight in babies in this article.
One of the most common causes of low birth weight in babies is premature delivery. Preterm babies are those who are born before 37 weeks of gestation. Since their development is incomplete, they weigh 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.
Another common cause of low birth weight in babies can be an infection caught by the developing fetus in the womb itself. 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 fight these infections, can affect an infant’s birth weight.
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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.
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 compete for nutrients. This added pressure on a 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 are close to labor. During pregnancy, a woman’s body works overtime and extra blood is pumped, thereby making her tired and stressed. However, a number of 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, and 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.
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 a 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 a fetus. The reduced flow of oxygen to the fetus, caused by substance abuse, is one of the major reasons for low birth weight in babies.
Developing babies require a constant, rich supply of essential nutrients from the mother. For example, Vitamin C helps in developing the muscles, bones, and teeth of babies. 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 women trying to control their weight gain during pregnancy. If a woman with average weight does not gain around 25-30 pounds during pregnancy, it will cause low birth weight in the baby. It might also lead to preterm delivery and a host of other complications.
In order to provide complete nutrition, women must also consume supplements along with natural diet, after consulting a professional.
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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 and prevent baby being born underweight.
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.
In order to have 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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At times, low birth weight might pose no threat to the newborn 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:
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 low birth weight in babies.
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