Low birth weight in developing countries

Maqbool Qadir, Zulfiqar Ahmed Bhutta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Of the current 4 million estimated deaths in the newborn period, a significant proportion die in association with small size at birth, both prematurity and intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR). In developed countries, the overwhelming majority of low both weight (LBW) infants are pre-term whereas in developing nations, including those in south Asia, most LBW newborns are full-term infants who are small for gestational age (SGA). Globally, over 20 million LBW infants are born annually, and most of the IUGR-LBW births are concentrated in 2 regions of the developing world, Asia and Africa, with more than half of LBW infants in developing countries born in South-Asia alone. As significant proportion of the morbidity and mortality associated with poor fetal growth is in the neonatal period, and related to birth asphyxia and infections (sepsis, pneumonia and diarrhea) which account for about 60% of neonatal deaths. Those IUGRLBW infants who survive have greatly restricted chances of fully reaching their growth potential. Moreover, evidence now shows that adults born with LBW face an increased risk of chronic diseases including high blood pressure, non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease and stroke in adulthood. There are a number of interventions that work towards reducing the burden of IUGR-LBW. These include maternal nutrition interventions, increased birth spacing, environmental control with reducing of exposure to smoke and malaria prevention strategies. Although available interventions can make a clear difference in the short term, elimination of stunting will require long-term investments to improve education, economic status and empowerment of women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-162
Number of pages15
JournalPediatric and Adolescent Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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