Perinatal Indicator: Low Birthweight

Definition

A baby who is born weighing 5.5 pounds or less is considered Low Birthweight. A baby born weighing 3.25 pounds or less is considered Very Low Birthweight. Babies may have low birthweight because they are born preterm or because they did not grow normally during pregnancy.

Why Does This Matter?

Low birthweight is one of the primary reasons babies fall ill or die in the first year of life. The cost of caring for a single premature infant can be 25 times higher than the average cost for an infant born on time and at a healthy weight. Low birthweight infants can have mild to moderate impairments of vision, hearing or speech. A smaller percentage might have severe neurological or sensory problems, developmental delays, and learning disabilities. Low birthweight babies also tend to score lower in verbal processing and reading assessments, suffer from emotional and behavioral problems, and repeat one or more grades in school.

Percent of Live Births that are Low, Moderately Low, and Very Low Birthweight in Regions (SPAs) of LA County

 2007
LA County
SPA 1
SPA 2
SPA 3
SPA 4
SPA 5
SPA 6
SPA 7
SPA 8
2007
2008
VLBW (under 3lbs, 4oz.)
1.6%
1.2%
1.3%
1.2%
1.2%
1.5%
1.2%
1.4%
1.3%
1.21%
Low Birthweight (3lbs, 4 oz. - 5lbs., 8oz.)
6.3%
6.2%
5.9%
5.6%
6.4%
6.4%
5.5%
6.3%
6.1%
6.1%
Total LBW (under 5lbs., 8oz.)
8.0%
7.4%
7.2%
6.8%
7.6%
7.9%
6.8%
7.7%
7.4%
7.31%
  • From 2007 to 2008, there was a slight decrease in the percent of children who were born with a very low birth weight in Los Angeles County. In 2007, 1.3% of all LAC live births were very low birthweight.  In 2008, 1.21% of all LAC live births were very low birthweight; during the same period, there was no change in LAC live births at moderately low birthweight.
  • In 2007, SPAs 1 and 6 have the highest rate of low birthweight babies with rates of 8.0% and 7.9% respectively.
  • In 2007, SPA 1 had the highest rate of very low birthweight babies with 1.0% of infants weighing under 1000 grams (3lbs, 4oz.) at birth.

lbw

Source: California Department of Public Health, Center for Health Statistics, OHIR Vital Statistics Section, 2007 and 2008 Vital Statistics, prepared by LA Best Babies Network, 2009.

LA County Low birthweight babies by ethnicity, 2007

 

 

For further information, please read the LA Best Babies Network Perinatal Scorecard

 

Photo courtesy Cheryl