Low Birth Weight

Low birth weight is one of the leading causes of neonatal mortality. Low birth weight infants are more likely to experience long-term disability or to die during the first year of life than are infants of normal weight.

In 2005, 8.2 percent of infants were born at low birth weight (less than 2,500 grams, or 5 pounds 8 ounces); this represents a slight increase (1.2 percent) from the rate recorded in 2004. The percentage of infants born at low birth weight has risen steadily from a low of 6.7 percent in 1984 and is currently at the highest level recorded in the past three decades.

The increase in multiple births, which are at high risk of being born preterm and of low weight, has strongly influenced the increase in low birth weight; however, rates are also on the rise for singleton births.

In 2005, the low birth weight rate was much higher among infants born to non-Hispanic Black women (14.0 percent) than among infants of other racial/ethnic groups. The next highest rate, which occurred among infants born to Asian/Pacific Islanders, was 8.0 percent, followed by a rate of 7.4 percent among American Indian/Alaska Natives. Low birth weight occurred among 7.3 percent of infants born to non-Hispanic White women, while infants of Hispanic women experienced the lowest rate (6.9 percent). Infants born to mothers of all races and ethnicities, except for American Indian/ Alaska Native, saw an increase in low birth weight from 2004.

Low Birth Weight Among Infants, by Race/Ethnicity 1989-2005 [D]

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