maternal nutrition

Low birth weight in babies – An overview:

WHO describes a low birth weight as weight at birth below 2500g (5.5 lb). With its instances grown worldwide, the low birth weight gets associated with dozens of short and long-term consequences.

Causes of low birth weight in babies:

  • Premature birth:
    Premature birth remains the most common cause of low birth weight in babies. Premature birth involves a baby born before 37 weeks of gestation. The baby born before the 37th week spends less time in the mother’s uterus. The clinically significant increase in foetal weight occurs in the latter part of the mother’s pregnancy. As a result, the premature baby gets less time in the mother’s uterus and gains low weight. Preterm birth manifests as a dreaded cause of neonatal mortality worldwide. Millions of babies succumb to the complications of low birth weight worldwide. Apart from being a grave influencer of prenatal mortality and clinical morbidities, research suggests that low birth weight contributes to the increased risk of non-communicable diseases like Diabetes and Cardiovascular problems later in life. Clinical observations maintain that infants weighing below 2500g are about 20 times more likely to die than babies acquiring healthy weight.
  • Foetal growth restriction:
    The streams dealing with neonatal health describe the phenomenon of Foetal growth restriction as FGR, growth-restricted, or small for gestational age. FGR signifies the inability of a baby to gain the weight as needed during her birth. Some of the babies with low birth weight carry it because their parents were small. Deficits in growth or growth restrictions in the womb are the other causes of FGR. The obstetricians use ultrasound to track the growth of the baby in pregnancy.

What are the causes of having a baby with low birth weight?

Apart from preterm labour, various factors contribute to low birth weight. 

  1. Chronic Health conditions:
    Chronic health conditions are those lasting for a longer time than expected and recur from time to time. They can become worse and call for extended treatment. Myocardial problems (heart problems), diabetes, lung problems, and kidney issues are examples of chronic health conditions. The babies born to the parent or parents with Chronic health conditions are likely to carry low birth weight.
  2. Placental health problems:
    Placenta, one of the crucial parts of the uterus, provides the unborn with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. If the placenta encounters any health problems, it may interfere with the healthy flow of oxygen and nutrition to the baby’s growth.
  3. Persistent medications:
    If the mother is on regular medications to treat health issues like a persistent cough, epilepsy, heart problems, or Blood Pressure (Hypertension), it’s mandatory to consult the healthcare specialist. The expectant mother should stop taking the medications or shift to a safer mode.
  4. Infections:
    Illnesses with unknown infectivity can contribute to low birth weight. Infections affecting the womb in pregnancy can hinder the growth of the baby in the womb. Rubella, Chickenpox, Toxoplasmosis and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STDs) are some of the dangerous infections.

Absence of a healthy body mass index in pregnancy:

The absence of a healthy body mass index interferes with the overall development of the baby. It may generate a live birth devoid of healthy weight. The women with the right body mass index during pregnancy are likely to deliver healthy babies. The women with health concerns such as Anorexia Nervosa or Orthorexia Nervosa should inform their obstetrician of their health history. Obstetricians would love to help you and make sure that both the mother and her unborn are safe and sound.

  • Having a premature baby or a baby with low birth weight.
  • Pregnancy with multiples: Carrying twins, triplets, or multiples in pregnancy can deliver babies with low birth weight.
  • A lifestyle with risk factors:
    Lifestyle choices leave a vast impact on people and their health status. Exposure to alcohol or nicotine in any form increases the risk of babies born with low birth weight. Involvement in such substances or misuse of medical prescriptions increases the likelihood of poor neonatal health. Experts in maternal healthcare link the usage of addictive substances to making premature babies and children with defects.
  • Domestic violence:
    If a spouse or partner hurts or injures the expectant mother, it may predispose her to the risk of delivering a baby with low birth weight. It might expose the pregnant woman to physical, mental, or sexual abuse.
  • Exposure to toxins:
    If a pregnant woman gets exposed to environmental or chemical toxins via various modes, it predisposes her to deliver a child with low birth weight.
  • Low socioeconomic status:
    Low socioeconomic status is the result of poverty or impoverishment. It is a combination of qualification, job, income, and occupational progress.

What types of interventions contribute to a reduction in instances with low birth weight?

  1. Prevent Malaria in pregnancy.
  2. Promote a lifestyle free of bad habits and addictions.
  3. Allotment of health packages aiming at a healthy pregnancy.
  4. Nutritional foods
  5. Customized food packages based on medical history
  6. Improvement in prenatal care across areas under low medical coverage.

When should a mother take her premature baby home?

Many factors decide the right time to take the baby home. Neonatal care may extend if the baby has faced any kinds of complications.

You may take your baby home:

  1. If you are effectively breastfeeding the baby.
  2. Her body temperature is steady.
  3. Every prenatal problem is under control.
  4. The babies recovering steadily from lung diseases are sent home with oxygen treatment.

The preterm baby undergoes extensive examination after delivery. If the baby with low birth weight needs extra care, the neonatal expert/immediate supervisor inspects how premature the baby is. If the situation needs observatory control, the expert might send the baby to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Since maternal nutrition and weight gain are interrelated, an expectant mother should always start with proper diet and nutrition. Stay away from all addictions.

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