Low Birthweight

Low Birthweight

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Low Birth Weight
At birth, the average newborn weighs approximately seven pounds; meanwhile, a low birth weight baby weighs less than five and a half pounds (March of Dimes Foundation, 2011). Today, low birth weight typically occurs in newborns born before thirty-seven weeks gestation or in full-term deliveries where the baby is under-weight, also known as intrauterine growth restriction (March of Dimes Foundation, 2011). Complications associated with a low birth weight may include vision, hearing, and learning disabilities. Poor health, drug and alcohol use, and tobacco exposure will increase the probability that a woman will give birth to an under-weight baby (Discovery Communications, 2011).
A woman’s overall health and wellness, during pregnancy, is important to the development of her growing fetus. Chronic health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, increased stress levels, and insufficient rest can significantly reduce the baby’s weight (Discovery Communications, 2011, p.3). In addition, a balanced diet rich in nutrients is essential to a healthy weight gain in the mother and baby. According to the March of Dimes (2011), pregnant women should receive prenatal care and work closely with a health care provider to manage chronic health conditions.
The use of illicit and prescription drugs has been associated with growth restriction, premature delivery, and multiple congenital anomalies (as cited in Berger, 2010, p.74). A pregnant woman should seek medical consent, before taking any medication, to assess the potential risks and benefits (as cited in Berger, 2010, p.74). Furthermore, healthcare professionals warn that all women should avoid alcohol during pregnancy. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy limits fetal growth and may cause a cluster of birth defects known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) (Berger, 2010, p.73). Infants born with FAS may suffer from slow physical growth, delayed mental and behavioral development, and abnormal facial features (Berger, 2010, p.73).
Women are encouraged to quit smoking cigarettes before and during pregnancy. The toxic substances found in tobacco may affect normal placental function in addition to exposing the fetus to harmful chemicals (Discovery Communications, 2011, p.4). By smoking, a woman increases her baby’s chance of developing a congenital heart defect as well as a low birth weight (Neighborhood Link, 2011). Smoking cessation, at any point, during pregnancy increases the probability of a normal birth weight (Discovery Communications, 2011, p.

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4).
In 2011, The March of Dimes reported, “about 1 in every 12 babies in the United States is born with a low birth weight and is at an increased risk for serious health problems.” Although a multitude of variables may contribute to the overall risk that a woman will give birth to an underweight baby, maternal responsibility during pregnancy remains. Adequate medical care, avoiding tobacco products, eliminating unnecessary drug exposure, and ceasing all alcohol consumption enhances the likelihood that a baby will be born at an average birth weight.



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