Baby’s weight connected with mother’s status [Archives:2007/1034/Health]

March 19 2007

A mother's health, social status, child-bearing age, nutrition, education and social habits all determine the weight of newborn babies, according to recent research undertaken by Sana'a University medical students.

The research was conducted on 4,266 babies born between the period 1/1/2006 – 30/6/2006 at Al-Thawra public hospital in Sana'a to ascertain the ratio of underweight babies born during that period. The researchers also studied the babies health and family backgrounds.

The research showed that over 21 percent of newborn Yemeni babies are underweight. Approximately, a third of these are due to the early child-bearing age of the mother (less than 20 years old). Another third of underweight births result from multiple deliveries and the remaining third are due to first delivery. In fact, the youth of many first time mothers accounted for 29.8 percent of the babies under the normal weight.

According to WHO standards, the normal weight of a newborn is between 2500- 3500Gm with newborn babies weighing less than 2500 Gm considered underweight. Those born heavier than 3500Gm are classified overweight. UNICIF reports state that Yemen has one of the highest rates of underweight births worldwide.

The research confirmed that there is a connection between birth weight and mother's age, health and social life. On the other hand, newborn weight is an important indicator of baby's chances to experience a healthy life throughout different growth stages.

The age of the mother during pregnancy was found to influence birth weight. Mother's less than 20 years old were found to be subject to numerous medical problems due to the immaturity of the uterus which meant that their babies stood a higher chance of being born below the normal weight. Also, the number of deliveries per women was found to directly affect the weight of the newborn. Consequently, the potential of giving birth to underweight babies is mitigated the closer the potential mother approaches normal child-bearing age (20-35 years old). However, the study found that with the second, third and fourth deliveries the weight of the newborn had the potential to increase leading to an overweight birth at around the fifth delivery, even within the bounds of normal child-bearing age.

The research also revealed that an educated mother had a positive influence on the baby's weight since they better realised the importance of general health and good nutrition during pregnancy which is essential for the fetus' safe gestation whereas uneducated mothers were not generally aware of such issues.

Additionally, newborn weight was seen to be negatively affected by the mother's own medical history such as hypertension, heart, kidney, lung problems and malaria which was found to adversely affect the unborn child. An abnormal uterus or cervix can also increase the mother's risk of having premature and underweight baby. Furthermore, diseases that infect the fetus during pregnancy such as syphilis and rubella also affect the newborn's weight and health. The research further added that some maternal habits including smoking, chewing Qat, and drug addiction lead to underweight babies, abnormal child development and childhood illness which could impact upon the child in adulthood.

The research recommended that society as a whole should be made aware of the issues, both individual and social, affecting birth weight in order to help decrease the abnormally high rate of underweight newborns. Through health education, society should realise the dangers of women marrying too young and the consequences that such marriages have for both mothers, their children and the future of Yemen. Expecting mothers should protect themselves from any danger that may lead to a premature delivery as well as practice family planning, which is of great importance, to ensure a healthy life for all the family but most importantly for mother and newborn child.