Dangers of Low Birth Weight

Having a LBW baby can cause emotional, social and financial stress for the family. In one mother's words "It is difficult to portray in writing the stress, fear, anguish and disappointment felt as a parent when your child comes into this world not as expected." (read full story) The reality is that LBW babies usually need extra hospital care, and there is constant concern and uncertainty regarding their future health.



Some facts you should be aware of:

  • Mothers of LBW babies have a greater chance of having postpartum depression.
  • Parents of LBW babies report difficulties in their marital relationship - this adds to their already high level of stress
  • Mothers of LBW babies need a longer time before returning to work and take more days off, once they have returned to work, to care for their children's health needs.

Dangers of Low Birth Weight to the baby

  • Babies who are born LBW and/or preterm (before 37 completed weeks of pregnancy) are at greater risk of having:
    • learning difficulties
    • vision difficulties
    • chronic respiratory problems like asthma
    • cerebral palsy
  • The earlier the baby is born, the more likely problems will result



Emily was born at 32 weeks gestation and weighed 4lbs. 1oz. Here she is at 6 days old with her feeding tube through her nose. Emily needs a feeding tube because at her birth gestation, she had not yet learned how to coordinate her ability to suck, swallow and breath (these activities become coordinated between 32-34 weeks gestation). A feeding tube allows Emily to receive her daily nourishment and save her strength to grow stronger. Emily has a difficult time digesting her food (including breast milk) and is on a special formula, which she receives in small daily increments in order to allow her stomach to properly digest it. She is now 5 months old, weighs nearly 8 lbs. and has learned to suck, although her digestion challenges continue.


Low birth weight is mainly due to babies that are born before term (preterm).
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© 2019 Ottawa Coalition for the Prevention of Low Birth Weight
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