Low birth weight is considered to be less than 5.5 pounds when a baby is born. Low birth weight is one of the major leading causes of infant death in the United States. Through education and awareness, the United States has dropped infant mortality rates dramatically. In 1980, infant death averaged twelve percent due to low birth weight (Reichman, 2005). Infant mortality dropped to seven percent in the early new millennium (Reichman, 2005).
So what factors influence a baby to be born with low birth weight?
– Mothers who are young and under the age of seventeen
– Mothers who are at the age of 30 or greater
– If the family and mother are uneducated
– African Americans
– Poverty or low income
– Pregnant mothers who smoke and/or drink alcohol
– Babies being born prematurely
Reichman stated in her article, Low Birth Weight and School Readiness, “In 2000, thirteen percent of babies born to black mothers were low birth weight, compared to six and a half percent of those born to white mothers” (2005). What is even more interesting is women of Hispanic origin have the same status of white women when it comes to low birth rates. Women who move to America from other countries have better birth outcomes, rather than women from different origins who were born and raised in America. On a positive note, infant mortality due to low birth weight has dropped significantly over the past twenty-five years.
Babies who are born prematurely or born with low birth weight can place a huge financial burden to the family. Hospital stays are much longer for these children. Not only does the family acquire a much larger hospital bill, they obtain travel expenses to and from the hospital. Taking time off from work to be at the hospital is just another expense that the family has taken.
Children are at greater risk for school performance problems when born with low birth weight. They have a higher risk of performing poorly on tasks that engage in reading, spelling, and math compared to their peers. Children who are born premature typically tend to be aggressive and hyperactive. Mothers with premature or low birth weight children experience a high amount of stress because of the child’s behavioral problems.
It is vital for expecting mothers to start prenatal care as soon as possible. A nurse can assist an expecting mother through education and developing a personalized care plan.
According to the March of Dimes (2014), there are several healthy steps that a female can take when expecting or planning a pregnancy:
Have a preconception checkup
Make sure that vaccinations are up to date
Take the daily recommended dose of folic acid
Do not consume alcohol and stay away or stop smoking
Reduce mental and physical stresses
Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program is very effective in improving the health of pregnant women, new mothers, and their infants (2013). It is federally owned and provides grants to all States in order to provide adequate nutrition for low-income families. Not only does WIC provide nutritional education, it also provides health screening and referrals to health care providers. WIC services are provided in your county health departments, hospitals, and many local community centers. There are many mothers who depend on WIC to provide for their household.
March Of Dimes (2014). Low birthweight. Retrieved from http://www.marchofdimes.com/baby/low-birthweight.aspx#
Reichman, N. E. (2005). Low birth weight and school readiness. The Future of Children, 15. Retrieved from http://futureofchildren.org/publications/journals/article/index.xml?jounralid=38&articleid=118§ionid=774
United States Department Of Agriculture Food And Nutrition Service (2013). Women, infants and children (WIC); About WIC-WIC at a glance. Retrieved from http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/about-wic-wic-glance
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