Very Low Birth Weight

In 2005, 1.5 percent of live births were infants of very low birth weight (less than 1,500 grams, or 3 pounds 4 ounces). The proportion of very low birth weight infants has slowly climbed from just over one percent in 1980.

Because the chance of survival increases as birth weight increases, very low birth weight infants have the lowest survival rates. Infants born at such low birth weights are approximately 100 times more likely to die in the first year of life than are infants of normal birth weight. Very low birth weight infants who survive are at a significantly increased risk of severe problems, including physical and visual difficulties, developmental delays, and cognitive impairment, requiring increased levels of medical, educational, and parental care.

Non-Hispanic Black newborns are more than two and a half times more likely than other racial and ethnic groups to be born at a very low birth weight. Among non-Hispanic Black infants, 3.3 percent are born at a very low birth weight, compared to 1.2 percent of non-Hispanic Whites, Hispanics, and American Indian/Alaska Natives, and Asian/Pacific Islanders. This difference is a major contributor to the disparity in infant mortality rates between non-Hispanic Black infants and infants of other racial and ethnic groups.

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

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