Low Birth Weight


  • 3.2% of full term babies born to mothers from Wakefield had a low birth weight in 2017
  • Percentage of low birth weight babies has increased slightly since 2015
  • Risk factors for low birth weight include maternal diet, smoking and alcohol consumption.

The Population

Low birth weight is defined as a birth weight less than 2,500 grams at full gestation; it is associated with an increased risk of infant mortality, childhood morbidity and poorer health later in life. There are inequalities in low birth weight, with higher proportions of low birth weight babies being born in more deprived populations. This is thought to be associated with higher prevalence of lifestyle issues that increase the risk of low birth weight, such as maternal smoking and alcohol consumption.

The Challenges

Latest available data shows that in Wakefield 106 babies born in local hospitals had a low birth weight in 2017; this is 3.2% of all live full term births. Wakefield has a statistically similar rate to the regional (2.9%) and national (2.8%) averages. Since 2015 the proportion of low weight births has risen slightly, with 2.4% of babies born low weight in 2015. It is not possible to calculate the % of low birth weight babies by the Seven Areas or Clinical Networks using this definition; we do not have access to the required data. In the area profiles the % of low birth weight babies has been calculated as a proportion of all live full term births, that is births occurring at 37 weeks gestation or later.

Poor maternal nutritional status at conception and inadequate maternal nutrition during pregnancy can result in low birth weight. A number of nutritional factors have an influence on low birth weight, including pre-pregnancy maternal weight, gestational weight gain, energy intake, iron and anaemia. Mother’s smoking status also affects birth weight. Analysis shows that babies born to mothers who smoke in Wakefield district are significantly lower weight than those born to mothers who do not.

The Inequality

Inequalities around low birth weight are mainly associated with maternal lifestyle factors, such as smoking status during pregnancy, alcohol consumption and diet during pregnancy. The same inequalities that relate to these factors (deprivation, access to services, education) also relate to low birth weight babies because of this.