World Facts

Highest Rates Of Low Birth Weight Infants In The World

More than one-third of newborns in Mauritania weigh less than 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds) upon delivery.

Most of the children in developing countries and especially in rural areas are born with a low weight. These infants are three times more likely to die before the age of five compared to children born with the standard weight. World Health Organization define low birth weight as weight at birth of an infant weighing less than 2500gms or 5.5 pounds irrespective of the gestation period of the mother. Low birth weight is important in predicting the health and survival chances of the newborn baby. Some of the causes of low birth weight include;


For a healthy fetal growth and development, essential nutrients are required in the body and mothers on poor nutrition are likely to deny the developing baby in the womb these essential nutrients. Nutrients are needed from the time of conception throughout the pregnancy and delivery. Pregnant women who do not go for prenatal care miss out on the vital information on how to feed and the kind of food they need to take for the development of the baby. Such mothers are likely to give birth to premature or low-weight babies.

Prenatal Care

Lack of access to prenatal care by the expectant mother is one of the leading causes of low birth weight worldwide. Three in every five women who do not attend prenatal care stand the risk of giving birth to an underweight baby. Women who fail to attend prenatal care lose out on vital nutritional coaching, monitoring of maternal weight, emotional support, and screening of any risk factor that may lead to low birth weight.


Tobacco smoking adversely affects the growth and development of the baby and affects the health of the mother during pregnancy. Prenatal smoking accounts for 20-30% cases of low birth weight worldwide. Smoking also shortens the gestation period leading to premature births that are always low weight. Tobacco smoking is one of the leading causes of low birth weight in most developed countries such as the US and Germany.

Other Causes

Other causes of low birth weight include premature birth and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). Premature birth refers to birth before the 37 weeks of pregnancy and all cases of underweight births, 67% is a result of premature births. All babies born before the full term pregnancy are always underweight and would weigh less than three pounds, five ounces. Such babies are likely to develop health problems at birth or weeks later and during their lifetime. Premature births towards the end of pregnancy may need close supervision for few days and are likely to be in good shape with little or no health problems. On the other hand, infants born early in the pregnancy period have statistically higher rates of mortality though they might seem healthier at birth.


Some of the countries with low birth weight include Mauritania, Haiti, Senegal, Nepal and Mozambique with over 15% of babies born being underweight. Some of the efforts by the governments to eliminate low birth weight include sensitizing the community on the importance of prenatal care, availing medical facilities like clinics and dispensaries for ease of access by pregnant women, providing blood boosters for pregnant women and where possible ensuring that women have access to quality food during pregnancy. WHO is also working with government agencies to help reduce low weight births in different countries around the world.

Highest Rates Of Low Birth Weight Infants In The World

RankCountry% of Infants weighing less than 2,500 grams at time of birth

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