Reasons for Low Birth Weight – Why A Mother Shouldn’t Be Blamed

A friend of mine just delivered a cute little baby girl. I couldn’t hold my excitement so we rushed to the hospital to congratulate the family. I was dying to hold the little one in my arms. But the minute I entered the room I could sense some tension. The baby looked fine. But I could sense some tension between my friend and her husband. After a quick exchange of pleasantries, the husband excused himself. The next second I saw my friend in tears! Yes, typically any mom of a newborn reacts strangely, often with mixed emotions oozing out due to postpartum depression, but this one looked unusual. The reason for her tears was something else.

reasons for low birth weight

Her baby was born with a low birth weight. I told her this would soon be fine with medical care. Why so much panic and distress? But then she said something which was truly shocking!

My friend told me that her husband was extremely angry because the low birth weight is “all because she didn’t monitor her diet or baby’s health during the pregnancy”. It came as a shock to me. The least one could do at this point was to blame the mom! One needs to thoroughly understand the reasons for low birth weight.

A low birth weight baby weighs less than 2.5 kilos at the time of birth. If the baby weighs several grams less than 2.5 kilos, doctors in our country describe him as having an extremely low birth weight or in other words – ‘weak’. In some cases, the baby has to spend a few nights in the NICU. Mostly, this happens because the mother went into premature labour or the baby was born before the due date. Read on to know the actual reasons for low birth weight and how a mother shouldn’t be blamed for it.

Reason for low birth weight: 

Low birth weight babies are born for a myriad of reasons, including premature birth, inadequate prenatal growth, or a combination of the two.

Being born too early is the most common cause of low birth weight (premature birth). A preterm baby has less time to grow and gain weight in the mother’s womb as it is born prior to the 37th week of pregnancy. During the later weeks of pregnancy, a baby gains a lot of weight which is taken away from premature babies. 

A disease known as Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) is another cause of low birth weight . This happens when a baby’s growth is stunted during pregnancy. It could be due to issues with the placenta, the mother’s health, or the health of the baby. Babies can have IUGR and be:

Full term: These babies are physically mature but are small. They are called full term as they are born between 37 to 41 weeks of pregnancy. 

Premature: These babies are both physically immature and small as are born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. 

Other reasons behind low weight babies could be: 

  • Infections and chronic medical problems like high blood pressure or heart disease during pregnancy may lead to intrauterine growth restrictions. 
  • Gaining less than recommended weight during pregnancy due to reasons like a history of eating disorders or excessive morning sickness. 
  • Genes determine around a third of a baby’s birth weight. Previous pregnancy with a low-birth-weight baby.
  • The habit of smoking is one of the main reasons. The birth weight of the baby decreases as the cigarette number per day increases. 
  • Frequent use of alcohol or using illicit drugs and abusing prescription medications. 

How to treat low birth rate?

Doctors and nurses at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) use high-tech gadgets and machines to treat premature and low-birth-weight babies.

1. IV fluids or gavage feeding

Since babies can’t normally synchronise sucking and swallowing until 32 to 34 weeks of pregnancy, children born before 28 weeks of pregnancy, as well as those who are severely unwell, receive their initial nourishment via an IV. 

This approach goes straight to the bloodstream, bypassing your preemie’s undeveloped digestive system.

2. Temperature-controlled bed

Babies lose heat at a rate roughly four times faster than adults. Body fat levels are low in premature and low-birth-weight newborns. Maintaining a temperature that is neither too hot nor too chilly for your infant allows him or her to conserve energy and build reserves.

3. Extra care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)

In the NICU, the babies are continuously monitored to ensure that they are getting the proper balance of fluids and nourishment. 

Getting early prenatal care and continuing it throughout the pregnancy is the greatest approach to avoid having a baby with low birth weight. The doctor monitors the baby’s growth and development and is aware of any danger indications early enough to intervene. 

Keep an eye out for the mother’s health issues, these can be addressed before they become severe issues for the infant. To increase the chances of having a healthy baby, ensure appropriate nutrition and adequate weight gain during pregnancy, and avoid any kind of substance abuse.  Lastly, and most importantly, do not pin the blame of the baby’s low birth weight on the mother. Understand that she is at her most vulnerable stage right after delivering the child, and she requires as much care and love as the baby does. 

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