Who is at risk for having a very low birth weight baby?

Any baby born prematurely is more likely to be very small. However, there are other factors that can also contribute to the risk of very low birth weight. These include:

  • Age: Teen mothers (especially those younger than 15 years old) have a much higher risk of having a baby with very low birth weight.
  • Mother's health: Women who are exposed to drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes during pregnancy are more likely to have low or very low birth weight babies. Mothers of lower socioeconomic status are also more likely to have higher levels of stress, poorer pregnancy nutrition, inadequate prenatal care, and pregnancy complications - all factors that can contribute to very low birth weight.
  • Multiple births: Multiple birth babies are at an increased risk of very low birth weight because they often are premature. About 10% of twins and more than one-third of triplets have very low birth weight.
  • Race: African-American babies are twice as likely to have very low birth weight compared to Caucasian babies. Why? Medical researchers now suspect that a lifetime of chronic stress caused by racial discrimination can negatively impact pregnancy, as well as other health outcomes.

Show All Answers

1. What causes very low birth weight?
2. Who is at risk for having a very low birth weight baby?