Low Birth Weight

Health Research Topics:

  • According to America’s Health Rankings, Georgia ranks 45th in the country on the rate of low birth weight births (defined as percentage of live births weighing less than 2500 grams, or 5 pounds, 8 ounces). Since 2000, Georgia’s rate of low birth weight births has been climbing, reaching a record high of 9.6 percent in 2012.


  • Low birth weight (LBW) births have serious consequences from long-term health problems to costly medical bills. Babies born at low birth weight risk death and other developmental complications such as respiratory distress, brain hemorrhaging, and heart problems. These problems can result in chronic illnesses throughout a person’s life as well as cause significant delays to children’s growth and development. Low birth weight births are often the result of a preterm delivery (before 37 weeks gestation).


  • Women with a history of a prior LBW birth have a greater likelihood of another LBW baby. Chronic health conditions – such as high blood pressure and diabetes – can result in LBW births. Infections in utero or problems with the placenta also put women at greater risk of delivering a LBW baby. Not gaining enough weight during pregnancy and poor health habits, such as smoking and drinking while pregnant also can contribute to LBW.


  • Other factors not clearly understood in their contribution to LBW include: mother’s low income and education, being African American, and women pregnant before the age of 17 or after the age of 35. African American infants are two times more likely to be born at low birth weight or preterm than white or Asian infants.