- Percentage of infants weighing less than 2500 grams (5 pounds, 8 ounces) at birth.
Low Birthweight is the percentage of live births of infants weighing less than 2,500 grams (5 pounds, 8 ounces). The 2013 ranks are based on 2011 birth certificates from the National Vital Statistics System.
Babies born with low birthweight are often born preterm or have inadequate growth for other reasons. Low birthweight may occur as a result of inadequate clinical care in the prenatal period. Through regular clinical visits, the health of the mother can be assessed, health risks can be identified, and steps can be taken to improve the mother’s health and her risk for preterm birth. Low birthweight is associated with many characteristics of the mother such as smoking status, nutritional status, and psychosocial problems. In addition to being an indicator of the mother’s health and clinical care, low birthweight is itself a potential cause of future health problems for the baby. Low birthweight babies are more likely than babies of normal weight to have health problems during the newborn period. Serious medical problems are most common in babies born at very low birthweight and include respiratory distress syndrome; bleeding in the brain; patent ductus arteriosus, a heart problem common in premature babies; necrotizing enterocolitis, an intestinal problem that usually develops 2 to 3 weeks after birth; and retinopathy of prematurity, an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eye that can lead to vision loss. There may also be a connection between many chronic diseases in adulthood and low birthweight, including type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. Successful prevention strategies are effective by:
- Expanding access to medical and dental services and taking a lifespan approach to health care;
- Focusing intensively on smoking prevention and cessation;
- Ensuring that pregnant women get adequate nutrition;
- Addressing demographic, social, and environmental risk factors.
The incidence of low birthweight varies from a low of 6.0 percent of live births in Alaska to a high of more than 10 percent in Mississippi and Louisiana. Nationally, 8.1 percent of live births are born weighing less than 2,500 grams. Healthy People 2020 objectives include reducing low birthweight to 7.8 percent of live births.
 Lemons JA, Bauer CR, Oh W, et al. Very low birth weight outcomes of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network, January 1995 through December 1996. NICHD Neonatal Research Network. Pediatrics. 2001;107(1).
 Als H. Individualized developmental care for the very low-birth-weight preterm infant. JAMA. 1994;272(11):853.
 Barker DJP. Fetal origins of adult disease: Strength of effects and biological basis. Int J Epidemiol. 2002;31(6):1235.
 Shore R, Shore B. Preventing low birthweight. KIDS COUNT indicator brief. Annie E. Casey Foundation. 2009 http://www.aecf.org/KnowledgeCenter/Publications.aspx?pubguid=%7B950E85EE-C2B4-466E-AA20-AE2010384A17%7D