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What is low birth weight (LBW)? As defined by World Health Organization (WHO), LBW is the birth weight of newborn for less than 2500g.

There are three main categories:

  1. Low birth weight- <2500g
  2. Very low birth weight (VLBW)- <1500g 
  3. Extremely low birth weight (ELBW)- <1000g

A low birth weight baby may be healthy even though they are small. But a low-birth-weight baby can also have serious health problems.


What causes LBW babies?

    1. Premature birth (baby being born too early). This is mainly due to lesser time in mother’s womb to grow and gain weight.
  • Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) (baby does not gain the weight they should before birth). It may be due to problems with the placenta, mother’s health, or baby’s health.


You are at higher risk of having an LBW baby if…

  1. Poor maternal nutrition before and during pregnancy
  2. Poor lifestyle (alcohol, tobacco use, drug abuse)
  3. Pregnancy complications (hypertension, diabetes, heart, lung and kidney problems etc.)
  4. Infection especially internal reproductive organs during pregnancy (cytomegalovirus, rubella, chickenpox, toxoplasmosis and certain sexually transmitted infections).
  5. Problems with placenta
  6. Being pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets or more).
  7. Having a history of LBW babies.
  8. Maternal age (Age less than 17 years or more than 35 years)
  9. Low socio-economic conditions


Why Should We Concern About It?

LBW babies are not as strong as a baby of normal birth weight. They are also associated with long-term neurologic disability, impaired language development, impaired academic achievement, and increased risk of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and diabetes later in life. 


Can It Be Prevented?

Regular prenatal care is the best way to minimize the risk of having preterm births and LBW babies. 

Also, do not forget to…

    • Follow a healthy diet prior and during pregnancy. 
    • Gain enough/ appropriate weight to help your baby grow and help you stay healthy.
  • Not drink alcohol, smoke, or use drugs.
  • If your baby is born LBW, feed him/ her with nutritious breast milk (mother to consume nutritious foods) for catch up growth.  



Minimize risk of having LBW baby with regular prenatal care, healthy diet and lifestyle throughout pregnancy period.



Cutland, C. L., Lackritz, E. M., Mallett-Moore, T., Bardají, A., Chandrasekaran, R., Lahariya, C., … & Brighton Collaboration Low Birth Weight Working Group. (2017). Low birth weight: Case definition & guidelines for data collection, analysis, and presentation of maternal immunization safety data. Vaccine35(48Part A), 6492.

Kaur, S., Ng, C. M., Badon, S. E., Jalil, R. A., Maykanathan, D., Yim, H. S., & Mohamed, H. J. J. (2019). Risk factors for low birth weight among rural and urban Malaysian women. BMC public health19(4), 1-10.

Ramakrishnan, U. (2004). Nutrition and low birth weight: from research to practice. The American journal of clinical nutrition79(1), 17-21.

University of Rochester Medical Center (n.d). Low Birth Weight. Retrieved from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=90&contentid=p02382 

 World Health Organization. (2004). The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Health Related Problems ICD-10: Tenth Revision. Volume 1: Tabular List (Vol. 1). World Health Organization.

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