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1.  Association of Birth Weight With Asthma-Related Outcomes at Age 2 Years 
Pediatric pulmonology  2006;41(7):643-648.
Summary. Background: Although lower birth weight associated with prematurity raises the risk of asthma in childhood, few prospective studies have examined higher birth weight, and few have separated the two components of birth weight, fetal growth and length of gestation.
Objective. To examine the associations of fetal growth and length of gestation with asthma-related outcomes by age 2 years.
Methods. We studied 1,372 infants and toddlers born after 34 weeks’ gestation in Project Viva, a prospective cohort study of pregnant mothers and their children. The main outcome measures were parent report of (1) any wheezing (or whistling in the chest) from birth to age 2 years, (2) recurrent wheezing during the first 2 years of life, and (3) doctor’s diagnosis of asthma, wheeze or reactive airwaydisease (“asthma”) by age 2. We calculated gestational age from the last menstrual period or ultrasound examination, and determined birth weight for gestational age z-value (“fetal growth”) using US national reference data.
Results. Infants’ mean birth weight was 3,527 (SD, 517; range, 1,559–5,528) grams. By age 2 years, 34% of children had any wheezing, 14% had recurrent wheezing, and 16% had doctor-diagnosed asthma. After adjusting for several parent, child, and household characteristics in logistic regression models, we found that infants with birth weight ≥4,000 g were not more likely to have any wheezing (odds ratio (OR), 0.91; 95% confidence interval (CI): 0.62, 1.34) or doctor-diagnosed asthma (OR, 0.80; 95% CI: 0.49, 1.31) than infants with birth weight 3,500–3,999 g. In models examining length of gestation and fetal growth separately, neither the highest nor the lowest groups of either predictor were associated with the three outcomes. Boys had a higher incidence of asthma-related outcomes than girls, and exposure to passive smoking, parental history of asthma, and exposure to older siblings were all associated with greater risk of recurrent wheeze or asthma-related outcomes at age 2 years.
Conclusion. Although male sex, exposure to smoking, parental history of asthma, and exposure to older siblingswere associated with increased riskof wheezing and asthma-related outcomes in this prospective study of children born after 34 weeks gestation, fetal growth and length of gestation were not.
PMCID: PMC1488724  PMID: 16703577
asthma; birth weight; fetal growth; length of gestation; wheezing
2.  Fetal Growth and Schizophrenia: A Nested Case-Control and Case-Sibling Study 
Schizophrenia Bulletin  2012;39(6):1337-1342.
The association between low birth weight and schizophrenia has been suggested by many studies. Small for gestational age (SGA) is a measure used as a proxy for intrauterine growth restriction. We aim to examine if children who are born SGA are at increased risk of developing schizophrenia and whether an association may be explained by factors shared among siblings. We linked 3 population-based registers: the Danish National Medical Birth Register, the Danish Psychiatric Central Register, and the Danish Civil Registration register to identify all persons born between 1978 and 2000. A nested case-control study and a case-sibling study design were used. There were 4650 cases of schizophrenia. Incidence rate ratios (IRRs) were estimated using conditional logistic regression. SGA was defined as the lowest 10th birth weight percentile for a given sex and gestational age. SGA was associated with an IRR of 1.23 (95% CI: 1.11–1.37) for schizophrenia in the case-control study. An IRR of 1.28 (95% CI: 0.97–1.68) was found in the case-sibling study. There is a modest association between SGA and schizophrenia. Our results indicate that this association is due to an independent effect of factors associated with low birth weight for gestational age per se, rather than other factors shared by siblings.
PMCID: PMC3796081  PMID: 23236080
register; Denmark; cohort study; epidemiology
3.  Neonatal Mortality Risk Associated with Preterm Birth in East Africa, Adjusted by Weight for Gestational Age: Individual Participant Level Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(8):e1001292.
In an analysis of four datasets from East Africa, Tanya Marchant and colleagues investigate the neonatal mortality risk associated with preterm birth and how this changes with weight for gestational age.
Low birth weight and prematurity are amongst the strongest predictors of neonatal death. However, the extent to which they act independently is poorly understood. Our objective was to estimate the neonatal mortality risk associated with preterm birth when stratified by weight for gestational age in the high mortality setting of East Africa.
Methods and Findings
Members and collaborators of the Malaria and the MARCH Centers, at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, were contacted and protocols reviewed for East African studies that measured (1) birth weight, (2) gestational age at birth using antenatal ultrasound or neonatal assessment, and (3) neonatal mortality. Ten datasets were identified and four met the inclusion criteria. The four datasets (from Uganda, Kenya, and two from Tanzania) contained 5,727 births recorded between 1999–2010. 4,843 births had complete outcome data and were included in an individual participant level meta-analysis. 99% of 445 low birth weight (<2,500 g) babies were either preterm (<37 weeks gestation) or small for gestational age (below tenth percentile of weight for gestational age). 52% of 87 neonatal deaths occurred in preterm or small for gestational age babies. Babies born <34 weeks gestation had the highest odds of death compared to term babies (odds ratio [OR] 58.7 [95% CI 28.4–121.4]), with little difference when stratified by weight for gestational age. Babies born 34–36 weeks gestation with appropriate weight for gestational age had just three times the likelihood of neonatal death compared to babies born term, (OR 3.2 [95% CI 1.0–10.7]), but the likelihood for babies born 34–36 weeks who were also small for gestational age was 20 times higher (OR 19.8 [95% CI 8.3–47.4]). Only 1% of babies were born moderately premature and small for gestational age, but this group suffered 8% of deaths. Individual level data on newborns are scarce in East Africa; potential biases arising due to the non-systematic selection of the individual studies, or due to the methods applied for estimating gestational age, are discussed.
Moderately preterm babies who are also small for gestational age experience a considerably increased likelihood of neonatal death in East Africa.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.
Editors' Summary
Worldwide, every year around 3.3 million babies die within their first month of life and the proportion of under-five child deaths that are now in the neonatal period (the first 28 days of life) has increased in all regions of the world and is currently estimated at 41%. Of these deaths, over 90% occur in low- and middle-income countries, and a third of all neonatal deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Low birth weight (defined as <2,500 g) is one of the biggest risk factors associated with neonatal deaths but it is the causes of low birth weight, rather than the low weight itself that is thought to lead to neonatal deaths. The two main causes of low birth weight are preterm birth (delivery before 37 weeks gestation) and/or restricted growth in the womb (intra-uterine growth retardation), resulting in babies who are small for their dates (defined as being in the lowest 10% of weight expected for gestational age with reference to a US population).
Why Was This Study Done?
Despite growing international attention focused on neonatal mortality in recent years, the relative importance of low birth weight, small for gestational age, and preterm birth in causing newborn deaths remains unclear. So in this study, the researchers investigated these relationships by calculating the risk of neonatal mortality associated with preterm birth after adjusting for weight for gestational age by conducting a meta-analysis (synthesis of the data) using information from studies reporting neonatal mortality conducted in sub-Saharan Africa.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified potential African datasets and selected four out of a possible ten to include in their analysis as these studies included three essential birth outcomes: birth weight; gestational age measured using antenatal ultrasound, or neonatal assessment on the day of birth; and neonatal mortality. These four studies were conducted in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, all in East Africa. The researchers analysed each study separately but also conducted a pooled statistical analysis on all four studies. To give a more detailed analysis, the researchers categorized babies into six groups taking into account whether the babies were moderately preterm (born at 34–36 weeks) or very preterm (born before 34 weeks) and whether their weight was appropriate for their gestational age.
The researchers included a total of 4,843 live births in their analysis and found that overall, 9.2% of babies were low birth weight, 4.0% were preterm, and 20.4% were small for gestational age. Amongst low birth weight babies, 26.1% were preterm, 85.0% were small for gestational age, and 98.8% were either preterm or small for gestational age. In their detailed analysis, the researchers found that the odds (chance) of death in the first 28 days of life were seven times higher for babies born low birth weight compared to those with normal birth weight, with low birth weight infants experiencing a neonatal mortality rate of 80.9/1,000 live births. The odds of death were twice as high for babies born small for gestational age compared to those born appropriate for gestational age, giving a neonatal mortality rate of 29.3/1,000 live births. Furthermore, compared to those born at term, the odds of death were over six times higher for babies born moderately preterm and almost 60 times higher for babies born very preterm with almost half of all very preterm babies dying in the first 28 days of life, giving a neonatal mortality rate 473.6/1,000 live births. However, moderately preterm babies who were small for gestational age had a much greater odds of death than moderately preterm babies who were of the appropriate weight for their gestational age.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings from East Africa show that babies born either small for gestational age or preterm contributed 52% of neonatal deaths. The detailed analysis suggests that babies born preterm are at the greatest risk of death, but size for gestational age also plays an important role especially in moderately preterm babies. The results from this study emphasize the pressing need to find ways to prevent preterm delivery and intra-uterine growth retardation and also illustrate the importance of measuring and reporting outcomes of individual babies.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
A recent PLOS Medicine study by Oestergaard et al. has the latest global figures on neonatal mortality
UNICEF provides information on neonatal mortality
The World Health Organization (WHO) provides factsheets on the causes of neonatal mortality, including preterm birth
PMCID: PMC3419185  PMID: 22904691
4.  Weight at Birth and Subsequent Fecundability: A Prospective Cohort Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e95257.
To examine the association between a woman's birth weight and her subsequent fecundability.
In this prospective cohort study, we included 2,773 Danish pregnancy planners enrolled in the internet-based cohort study “Snart-Gravid”, conducted during 2007–2012. Participants were 18–40 years old at study entry, attempting to conceive, and were not receiving fertility treatment. Data on weight at birth were obtained from the Danish Medical Birth Registry and categorized as <2,500 grams, 2,500–2,999 grams, 3,000–3,999 grams, and ≥4,000 grams. In additional analyses, birth weight was categorized according to z-scores for each gestational week at birth. Time-to-pregnancy measured in cycles was used to compute fecundability ratios (FR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI), using a proportional probabilities regression model.
Relative to women with a birth weight of 3,000–3,999 grams, FRs adjusted for gestational age, year of birth, and maternal socio-demographic and medical factors were 0.99 (95% CI: 0.73;1.34), 0.99 (95% CI: 0.87;1.12), and 1.08 (95% CI: 0.94;1.24) for birth weight <2,500 grams, 2,500–2,999 grams, and ≥4,000 grams, respectively. Estimates remained unchanged after further adjustment for markers of the participant's mother's fecundability. We obtained similar results when we restricted to women who were born at term, and to women who had attempted to conceive for a maximum of 6 cycles before study entry. Results remained similar when we estimated FRs according to z-scores of birth weight.
Our results indicate that birth weight appears not to be an important determinant of fecundability.
PMCID: PMC3988145  PMID: 24736472
5.  Assessing fetal growth impairments based on family data as a tool for identifying high-risk babies. An example with neonatal mortality 
Low birth weight is associated with an increased risk of neonatal and infant mortality and morbidity, as well as with other adverse conditions later in life. Since the birth weight-specific mortality of a second child depends on the birth weight of an older sibling, a failure to achieve the biologically intended size appears to increase the risk of adverse outcome even in babies who are not classified as small for gestation. In this study, we aimed at quantifying the risk of neonatal death as a function of a baby's failure to fulfil its biologic growth potential across the whole distribution of birth weight.
We predicted the birth weight of 411,957 second babies born in Denmark (1979–2002), given the birth weight of the first, and examined how the ratio of achieved birth weight to predicted birth weight performed in predicting neonatal mortality.
For any achieved birth weight category, the risk of neonatal death increased with decreasing birth weight ratio. However, the risk of neonatal death increased with decreasing birth weight, even among babies who achieved their predicted birth weight.
While a low achieved birth weight was a stronger predictor of mortality, a failure to achieve the predicted birth weight was associated with increased mortality at virtually all birth weights. Use of family data may allow identification of children at risk of adverse health outcomes, especially among babies with apparently "normal" growth.
PMCID: PMC2233632  PMID: 18045458
6.  Prenatal Valproate Exposure and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders and Childhood Autism 
JAMA  2013;309(16):1696-1703.
Valproate is used for the treatment of epilepsy and other neuropsychological disorders and may be the only treatment option for women of childbearing potential. However, prenatal exposure to valproate may increase the risk of autism.
To determine whether prenatal exposure to valproate is associated with an increased risk of autism in offspring.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Population-based study of all children born alive in Denmark from 1996 to 2006. National registers were used to identify children exposed to valproate during pregnancy and diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (childhood autism [autistic disorder], Asperger syndrome, atypical autism, and other or unspecified pervasive developmental disorders). We analyzed the risks associated with all autism spectrum disorders as well as childhood autism. Data were analyzed by Cox regression adjusting for potential confounders (maternal age at conception, paternal age at conception, parental psychiatric history, gestational age, birth weight, sex, congenital malformations, and parity). Children were followed up from birth until the day of autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, death, emigration, or December 31, 2010, whichever came first.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Absolute risk (cumulative incidence) and the hazard ratio (HR) of autism spectrum disorder and childhood autism in children after exposure to valproate in pregnancy.
Of 655 615 children born from 1996 through 2006, 5437 were identified with autism spectrum disorder, including 2067 with childhood autism. The mean age of the children at end of follow-up was 8.84 years (range, 4-14; median, 8.85). The estimated absolute risk after 14 years of follow-up was 1.53% (95% CI, 1.47%- 1.58%) for autism spectrum disorder and 0.48% (95% CI, 0.46%-0.51%) for childhood autism. Overall, the 508 children exposed to valproate had an absolute risk of 4.42% (95% CI, 2.59%-7.46%) for autism spectrum disorder (adjusted HR, 2.9 [95% CI, 1.7-4.9]) and an absolute risk of 2.50% (95% CI, 1.30%-4.81%) for childhood autism (adjusted HR, 5.2 [95% CI, 2.7-10.0]). When restricting the cohort to the 6584 children born to women with epilepsy, the absolute risk of autism spectrum disorder among 432 children exposed to valproate was 4.15% (95% CI, 2.20%-7.81%) (adjusted HR, 1.7 [95% CI, 0.9-3.2]), and the absolute risk of childhood autism was 2.95% (95% CI, 1.42%-6.11%) (adjusted HR, 2.9 [95% CI, 1.4-6.0]) vs 2.44% (95% CI, 1.88%-3.16%) for autism spectrum disorder and 1.02% (95% CI, 0.70%-1.49%) for childhood autism among 6152 children not exposed to valproate.
Conclusions and Relevance
Maternal use of valproate during pregnancy was associated with a significantly increased risk of autism spectrum disorder and childhood autism in the offspring, even after adjusting for maternal epilepsy. For women of childbearing potential who use antiepileptic medications, these findings must be balanced against the treatment benefits for women who require valproate for epilepsy control.
PMCID: PMC4511955  PMID: 23613074
7.  Birth weight for gestational age norms for a large cohort of infants born to HIV-negative women in Botswana compared with norms for U.S.-born black infants 
BMC Pediatrics  2011;11:115.
Standard values for birth weight by gestational age are not available for sub-Saharan Africa, but are needed to evaluate incidence and risk factors for intrauterine growth retardation in settings where HIV, antiretrovirals, and other in utero exposures may impact birth outcomes.
Birth weight data were collected from six hospitals in Botswana. Infants born to HIV-negative women between 26-44 weeks gestation were analyzed to construct birth weight for gestational age charts. These data were compared with published norms for black infants in the United States.
During a 29 month period from 2007-2010, birth records were reviewed in real-time from 6 hospitals and clinics in Botswana. Of these, 11,753 live infants born to HIV-negative women were included in the analysis. The median gestational age at birth was 39 weeks (1st quartile 38, 3rd quartile 40 weeks), and the median birth weight was 3100 grams (1st quartile 2800, 3rd quartile 3400 grams). We constructed estimated percentile curves for birth weight by gestational age which demonstrate increasing slope during the third trimester and leveling off beyond 40 weeks. Compared with black infants in the United States, Botswana-born infants had lower median birth weight for gestational age from weeks 37 through 42 (p < .02).
We present birth weight for gestational age norms for Botswana, which are lower at term than norms for black infants in the United States. These findings suggest the importance of regional birth weight norms to identify and define risk factors for higher risk births. These data serve as a reference for Botswana, may apply to southern Africa, and may help to identify infants at risk for perinatal complications and inform comparisons among infants exposed to HIV and antiretrovirals in utero.
PMCID: PMC3271964  PMID: 22176889
8.  Intrauterine environments and breast cancer risk: meta-analysis and systematic review 
Various perinatal factors, including birth weight, birth order, maternal age, gestational age, twin status, and parental smoking, have been postulated to affect breast cancer risk in daughters by altering the hormonal environment of the developing fetal mammary glands. Despite ample biologic plausibility, epidemiologic studies to date have yielded conflicting results. We investigated the associations between perinatal factors and subsequent breast cancer risk through meta-analyses.
We reviewed breast cancer studies published from January 1966 to February 2007 that included data on birth weight, birth order, maternal age, gestational age, twin status, and maternal or paternal smoking. Meta-analyses using random effect models were employed to summarize the results.
We found that heavier birth weights were associated with increased breast cancer risk, with studies involving five categories of birth weight identifying odds ratios (ORs) of 1.24 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.04 to 1.48) for 4,000 g or more and 1.15 (95% CI 1.04 to 1.26) for 3,500 g to 3,999 g, relative to a birth weight of 2,500 to 2,599 g. These studies provided no support for a J-shaped relationship of birthweight to risk. Support for an association with birthweight was also derived from studies based on three birth weight categories (OR 1.15 [95% CI 1.01 to 1.31] for ≥4,000 g relative to <3,000 g) and two birth weight categories (OR 1.09 [95% CI 1.02 to 1.18] for ≥3,000 g relative to <3,000 g). Women born to older mothers and twins were also at some increased risk, but the results were heterogeneous across studies and publication years. Birth order, prematurity, and maternal smoking were unrelated to breast cancer risk.
Our findings provide some support for the hypothesis that in utero exposures reflective of higher endogenous hormone levels could affect risk for development of breast cancer in adulthood.
PMCID: PMC2374960  PMID: 18205956
9.  Trends in gestational age and birth weight in Chile, 1991–2008. A descriptive epidemiological study 
Gestational age and birth weight are the principal determinants of newborn’s health status. Chile, a middle income country traditionally has public policies that promote maternal and child health. The availability of an exhaustive database of live births has allows us to monitor over time indicators of newborns health.
This descriptive epidemiological study included all live births in Chile, both singleton and multiple, from 1991 through 2008. Trends in gestational age affected the rate of prevalence (%) of preterm births (<37 weeks, including the categories < 32 and 32–36 weeks), term births (37–41) and postterm births (42 weeks or more). Trends in birth weight affected the prevalence of births < 1500 g, 1500–2499 g, 2500–3999 g, and 4000 g or more.
Data from an exhaustive register of live births showed that the number of term and postterm births decreased and the number of multiple births increased significantly. Birth weights exceeding 4000 g did not vary.
Total preterm births rose from 5.0% to 6.6%, with increases of 28% for the singletons and 31% for multiple births (p for trend < 0.0001). Some categories increased even more: specifically preterm birth < 32 weeks increased 32.3% for singletons and 50.6% for multiple births (p for trend 0.0001).
The overall rate of low birth weight infants (<2500 g) increased from 4.6% to 5.3%. This variation was not statistically significant for singletons (p for trend = 0.06), but specific analyses exhibited an important increase in the category weighing <1500 g (42%) similar to that observed in multiple births (43%).
The gestational age and birth weight of live born child have significantly changed over the past two decades in Chile. Monitoring only overall rates of preterm births and low-birth-weight could provide restricted information of this important problem to public health. Monitoring them by specific categories provides a solid basis for planning interventions to reduce adverse perinatal outcomes.
This epidemiological information also showed the need to assess several factors that could contribute to explain these trends, as the demographics changes, medical interventions and the increasing probability of survival of extremely and very preterm child.
PMCID: PMC3573962  PMID: 23116061
10.  Relation of arterial stiffness with gestational age and birth weight 
Archives of Disease in Childhood  2004;89(3):217-221.
Background: The cardiovascular risk of individuals who are born small as a result of prematurity remains controversial. Given the previous findings of stiffer peripheral conduit arteries in growth restricted donor twins in twin–twin transfusion syndrome regardless of gestational age, we hypothesised that among children born preterm, only those with intrauterine growth retardation are predisposed to an increase in cardiovascular risks.
Aim: To compare brachioradial arterial stiffness and systemic blood pressure (BP) among children born preterm and small for gestational age (group 1, n = 15), those born preterm but having birth weight appropriate for gestational age (group 2, n = 36), and those born at term with birth weight appropriate for gestational age (group 3, n = 35).
Methods: Systemic BP was measured by an automated device (Dinamap), while stiffness of the brachioradial arterial segment was assessed by measuring pulse wave velocity (PWV). The birth weight was adjusted for gestational age and expressed as a z score for analysis.
Results: The 86 children were studied at a mean (SD) age of 8.2 (1.7) years. Subjects from group 1, who were born at 32.3 (2.0) weeks' gestation had a significantly lower z score of birth weight (-2.29 (0.63), p<0.001), compared with those from groups 2 and 3. They had a significantly higher mean blood pressure (p<0.001) and their diastolic blood pressure also tended to be higher (p = 0.07). Likewise, their brachioradial PWV, and hence arterial stiffness, was the highest of the three groups (p<0.001). While subjects from group 2 were similarly born preterm, their PWV was not significantly different from that of group 3 subjects (p = 1.00) and likewise their z score of birth weight did not differ (-0.01 (0.71) v -0.04 (1.1), p = 1.00). Brachioradial PWV correlated significantly with systolic (r = 0.31, p = 0.004), diastolic (r = 0.38, p<0.001), and mean (0.47, p<0.001) BP, and with z score of birth weight (r = -0.43, p<0.001). Multiple linear regression identified mean BP and z score of birth weight as significant determinants of PWV.
Conclusion: The findings of the present study support the hypothesis that among children born preterm, only those with intrauterine growth retardation are disadvantaged as a result of increase in systemic arterial stiffness and mean blood pressure.
PMCID: PMC1719813  PMID: 14977693
11.  The APPLe Study: A Randomized, Community-Based, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Azithromycin for the Prevention of Preterm Birth, with Meta-Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(12):e1000191.
In a randomized trial in Malawi of azithromycin versus placebo in over 2,000 pregnant women, Jim Neilson and colleagues show no benefit of azithromycin for a number of outcomes including preterm birth and prenatal death.
Premature birth is the major cause of perinatal mortality and morbidity in both high- and low-income countries. The causes of preterm labour are multiple but infection is important. We have previously described an unusually high incidence of preterm birth (20%) in an ultrasound-dated, rural, pregnant population in Southern Malawi with high burdens of infective morbidity. We have now studied the impact of routine prophylaxis with azithromycin as directly observed, single-dose therapy at two gestational windows to try to decrease the incidence of preterm birth.
Methods and Findings
We randomized 2,297 pregnant women attending three rural and one peri-urban health centres in Southern Malawi to a placebo-controlled trial of oral azithromycin (1 g) given at 16–24 and 28–32 wk gestation. Gestational age was determined by ultrasound before 24 wk. Women and their infants were followed up until 6 wk post delivery. The primary outcome was incidence of preterm delivery, defined as <37 wk. Secondary outcomes were mean gestational age at delivery, perinatal mortality, birthweight, maternal malaria, and anaemia. Analysis was by intention to treat. There were no significant differences in outcome between the azithromycin group (n = 1,096) and the placebo group (n = 1,087) in respect of preterm birth (16.8% versus 17.4%), odds ratio (OR) 0.96, 95% confidence interval (0.76–1.21); mean gestational age at delivery (38.5 versus 38.4 weeks), mean difference 0.16 (−0.08 to 0.40); mean birthweight (3.03 versus 2.99 kg), mean difference 0.04 (−0.005 to 0.08); perinatal deaths (4.3% versus 5.0%), OR 0.85 (0.53–1.38); or maternal malarial parasitaemia (11.5% versus 10.1%), OR 1.11 (0.84–1.49) and anaemia (44.1% versus 41.3%) at 28–32 weeks, OR 1.07 (0.88–1.30). Meta-analysis of the primary outcome results with seven other studies of routine antibiotic prophylaxis in pregnancy (>6,200 pregnancies) shows no effect on preterm birth (relative risk 1.02, 95% confidence interval 0.86–1.22).
This study provides no support for the use of antibiotics as routine prophylaxis to prevent preterm birth in high risk populations; prevention of preterm birth requires alternative strategies.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN84023116
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Most pregnancies last about 40 weeks. Labor that occurs before 37 weeks of gestation (the period during which a baby develops in its mother) is defined as a preterm birth. In industrialized countries, 5%–10% of all births are preterm. Figures for preterm births are harder to obtain for low-income countries because of uncertainties about gestational dates but, in both rich and poor countries, preterm birth is a major cause of infant death and illness around the time of birth. Babies who are born prematurely also often have long-term health problems and disabilities. There are many reasons why some babies are born prematurely. Structural problems such as a weak cervix (the neck of the womb, which dilates during labor to allow the baby to leave the mother's body) can result in a premature delivery, as can pregnancy-induced diabetes, blood-clotting disorders, bacterial infections in the vagina or the womb, and malaria. However, it is impossible to predict which mothers will spontaneously deliver early.
Why Was This Study Done?
At present there is no effective way to prevent premature births. Because infection is often associated with preterm labor and can occur early in pregnancy but remain undetected, one way to reduce the incidence of preterm births may be to give pregnant women antibiotics even when they have no obvious infection (prophylactic antibiotics). In this study, the researchers test this hypothesis by giving the antibiotic azithromycin to pregnant women living in Southern Malawi in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. One baby in five is born before 37 weeks gestation in Southern Malawi and the women living in this part of sub-Saharan Africa have a high burden of infection. Azithromycin is a safe antibiotic that can treat many of the bacterial infections that have been implicated in preterm birth. It also has some antimalarial activity. In a randomized, placebo-controlled trial, participants are randomly assigned to receive a drug or identical-looking “dummy” tablets (placebo).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled more than 2,000 pregnant women into the APPLe study (Azithromycin for the Prevention of Preterm Labor) and determined the gestational age of their unborn babies using ultrasound. Half of the women were given an oral dose of azithromycin at 16–24 weeks and at 28–32 weeks gestation. The remaining women were given a placebo at similar times. The mothers and their babies were followed up until 6 weeks after delivery. There was no significant difference in the primary outcome of the study—the incidence of delivery before 37 weeks gestation—between the two groups of women. Secondary outcomes—including mean gestational age at delivery, mean birth weight, and still births and infant deaths within a week of birth—were also similar in the two groups of women. Finally, the researchers did a meta-analysis (a statistical technique that combines the results of several studies) of their study and seven published studies of routine antibiotic prophylaxis in pregnancy, which indicated that the prophylactic use of antibiotics did not alter the risk of preterm birth.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide no support for the use of antibiotics as prophylaxis to prevent preterm birth. The women included in this study had an unusually high incidence of preterm delivery and a high burden of infection so these findings may not be generalizable. The results of the meta-analysis, however, also provide no support for prophylactic antibiotics. Given that observational data have associated infection with preterm labor, why are the results of the APPLe trial and the meta-analysis negative? One possibility is that different antibiotics or dosing regimens might be more effective. Another possibility is that infection might be a secondary consequence of some other condition that causes preterm birth rather than the primary cause of early delivery. Whatever the reason for the lack of effect of prophylactic antibiotics, the researchers recommend that pregnant women should not be given antibiotics prophylactically to prevent preterm birth particularly since, in a recent study, the babies of women given antibiotics to halt ongoing preterm labor had an increased risk of developmental problems.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish)
The Nemours Foundation, another nonprofit organization for child health, also provides information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
Tommy's is a nonprofit organization that funds research and provides information on the causes and prevention of miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on maternal and infant health (in English and Spanish)
The US National Women's Health Information Center has detailed information about pregnancy (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to other information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC2776277  PMID: 19956761
12.  Atopic dermatitis and birth factors: historical follow up by record linkage. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1997;314(7086):1003-1008.
OBJECTIVE: To study if factors at birth are associated with later development of atopic dermatitis. DESIGN: Historical follow up by record linkage from Danish medical birth register. Children were followed up for 5.5 to 8.5 years. Second historical follow up study comprising questionnaire to mothers of singleborn children 6.5 to 9.5 years after birth. SETTING: Private dermatology clinics and dermatology and paediatric departments in the municipality of Aarhus, Denmark. SUBJECTS: 7862 singletons born in hospital between 1 January 1984 and 31 December 1986 to mothers living in the municipality of Aarhus. Questionnaires sent to 985 mothers. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Gestational age, birth weight, parity, and age of mother at the time of birth. Atopy in children diagnosed by specialists in dermatology and physicians. Family size; diagnosis of atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, and asthma; family predisposition; and mothers' smoking habits during pregnancy determined from questionnaires. RESULTS: Of 7862 children, 403 were diagnosed as having atopic dermatitis by a specialist; the cumulative incidence at age 7 was 5.6%. High gestational age and low parity were associated with an increased risk of atopic dermatitis. Among 985 children atopic dermatitis had been diagnosed by any physician in 184; the cumulative incidence at age 7 was 18.7%. High birth weight, high gestational age, and family history of atopy were associated with increased risk of atopic dermatitis. CONCLUSION: In both studies the incidence of atopic dermatitis was associated with high gestational age and in one with high birth weight also. The causes for these associations are at present unknown but may indicate that even during gestation factors associated with atopic dermatitis influence maturation.
PMCID: PMC2126413  PMID: 9112844
13.  Post-neonatal Mortality, Morbidity, and Developmental Outcome after Ultrasound-Dated Preterm Birth in Rural Malawi: A Community-Based Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(11):e1001121.
Using data collected as a follow-up to a randomized trial, Melissa Gladstone and colleagues show that during the first two years of life, infants born preterm in southern Malawi are disadvantaged in terms of mortality, growth, and development.
Preterm birth is considered to be associated with an estimated 27% of neonatal deaths, the majority in resource-poor countries where rates of prematurity are high. There is no information on medium term outcomes after accurately determined preterm birth in such settings.
Methods and Findings
This community-based stratified cohort study conducted between May–December 2006 in Southern Malawi followed up 840 post-neonatal infants born to mothers who had received antenatal antibiotic prophylaxis/placebo in an attempt to reduce rates of preterm birth (APPLe trial ISRCTN84023116). Gestational age at delivery was based on ultrasound measurement of fetal bi-parietal diameter in early-mid pregnancy. 247 infants born before 37 wk gestation and 593 term infants were assessed at 12, 18, or 24 months. We assessed survival (death), morbidity (reported by carer, admissions, out-patient attendance), growth (weight and height), and development (Ten Question Questionnaire [TQQ] and Malawi Developmental Assessment Tool [MDAT]). Preterm infants were at significantly greater risk of death (hazard ratio 1.79, 95% CI 1.09–2.95). Surviving preterm infants were more likely to be underweight (weight-for-age z score; p<0.001) or wasted (weight-for-length z score; p<0.01) with no effect of gestational age at delivery. Preterm infants more often screened positively for disability on the Ten Question Questionnaire (p = 0.002). They also had higher rates of developmental delay on the MDAT at 18 months (p = 0.009), with gestational age at delivery (p = 0.01) increasing this likelihood. Morbidity—visits to a health centre (93%) and admissions to hospital (22%)—was similar for both groups.
During the first 2 years of life, infants who are born preterm in resource poor countries, continue to be at a disadvantage in terms of mortality, growth, and development. In addition to interventions in the immediate neonatal period, a refocus on early childhood is needed to improve outcomes for infants born preterm in low-income settings.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Being born at term in Africa is not necessarily straightforward. In Malawi, 33 of every 1,000 infants born die in the first 28 days after birth; the lifetime risk for a mother dying during or shortly after pregnancy is one in 36. The comparable figures for the United Kingdom are three infants dying per 1,000 births and a lifetime risk of maternal death of one in 4,700. But for a baby, being born preterm is even more risky and the gap between low- and high-income countries widens still further. According to a World Health Organization report in 2010, a baby born at 32 weeks of gestation (weighing around 2,000 g) in Africa has little chance of survival, while the chances of survival for a baby born at 32 weeks in North America or Europe are similar to one born at term. There are very few data on the longer term outcomes of babies born preterm in Africa and there are multiple challenges involved in gathering such information. As prenatal ultrasound is not routinely available, gestational age is often uncertain. There may be little routine follow-up of preterm babies as is commonplace in high-income countries. Data are needed from recent years that take into account both improvements in perinatal care and adverse factors such as a rising number of infants becoming HIV positive around the time of birth.
Why Was This Study Done?
We could improve outcomes for babies born preterm in sub-Saharan Africa if we understood more about what happens to them after birth. We cannot assume that the progress of these babies will be the same as those born preterm in a high-income country, as the latter group will have received different care, both before and after birth. If we can document the problems that these preterm babies face in a low-income setting, we can consider why they happen and what treatments can be realistically tested in this setting. It is also helpful to establish baseline data so that changes over time can be recorded.
The aim of this study was to document four specific outcomes up to the age of two years, on which there were few data previously from rural sub-Saharan Africa: how many babies survived, visits to a health center and admissions to the hospital, growth, and developmental delay.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers examined a group of babies that had been born to mothers who had taken part in a randomized controlled trial of an antibiotic to prevent preterm birth. The trial had previously shown that the antibiotic (azithromycin) had no effect on how many babies were born preterm or on other measures of the infants' wellbeing, and so the researchers followed up babies from both arms of the trial to look at longer term outcomes. From the original group of 2,297 women who took part in the trial, they compared 247 infants born preterm against 593 term infants randomly chosen as controls, assessed at 12, 18, or 24 months. The majority of the preterm babies who survived past a month of age (all but ten) were born after 32 weeks of gestation. Compared to the babies born at term, the infants born preterm were nearly twice as likely to die subsequently in the next two years, were more likely to be underweight (a third were moderately underweight), and to have higher rates of developmental delay. The commonest causes of death were gastroenteritis, respiratory problems, and malaria. Visits to a health center and admissions to hospital were similar in both groups.
What Do these Findings Mean?
This study documents longer term outcomes of babies born preterm in sub-Saharan Africa in detail for the first time. The strengths of the study include prenatal ultrasound dating and correct adjustment of follow-up age (which takes into account being born before term). Because the researchers defined morbidity using routine health center attendances and self-report of illnesses by parents, this outcome does not seem to have been as useful as the others in differentiating between the preterm and term babies. Better means of measuring morbidity are needed in this setting.
In the developed world, there is considerable investment being made to improve care during pregnancy and in the neonatal period. This investment in care may help by predicting which mothers are more likely to give birth early and preventing preterm birth through drug or other treatments. It is to be hoped that some of the benefit will be transferable to low-income countries. A baby born at 26 weeks' gestation and admitted to a neonatal unit in the United Kingdom has a 67% chance of survival; preterm babies born in sub-Saharan Africa face a starkly contrasting future.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
UNICEF presents useful statistics on mother and child outcomes
The World Health Organization has attempted to analyse preterm birth rates worldwide, including mapping the regional distribution and has also produced practical guides on strategies such as Kangaroo Mother Care, which can be used for the care of preterm infants in low resource settings
Healthy Newborn Network has good information on initiatives taking place to improve neonatal outcomes in low income settings
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on research being conducted into preterm birth
Tommy's is a nonprofit organization that funds research and provides information on the risks and causes of premature birth
PMCID: PMC3210771  PMID: 22087079
14.  Decreased Bone Mineral Density in Adults Born with Very Low Birth Weight: A Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(8):e1000135.
Petteri Hovi and colleagues evaluate skeletal health in 144 adults born preterm with very low birth weight and show that as adults these individuals have significantly lower bone mineral density than do their term-born peers.
Very-low-birth-weight (VLBW, <1,500 g) infants have compromised bone mass accrual during childhood, but it is unclear whether this results in subnormal peak bone mass and increased risk of impaired skeletal health in adulthood. We hypothesized that VLBW is associated with reduced bone mineral density (BMD) in adulthood.
Methods and Findings
The Helsinki Study of Very Low Birth Weight Adults is a multidisciplinary cohort study representative of all VLBW births within the larger Helsinki area from 1978 to 1985. This study evaluated skeletal health in 144 such participants (all born preterm, mean gestational age 29.3 wk, birth weight 1,127 g, birth weight Z score 1.3), and in 139 comparison participants born at term, matched for sex, age, and birth hospital. BMD was measured by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry at age 18.5 to 27.1 y. Adults born with VLBW had, in comparison to participants born at term, a 0.51-unit (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.28–0.75) lower lumbar spine Z score and a 0.56-unit (95% CI 0.34–0.78) lower femoral neck Z score for areal BMD. These differences remained statistically significant after adjustment for the VLBW adults' shorter height and lower self-reported exercise intensity.
Young adults born with VLBW, when studied close to the age of peak bone mass, have significantly lower BMD than do their term-born peers. This suggests that compromised childhood bone mass accrual in preterm VLBW children translates into increased risk for osteoporosis in adulthood, warranting vigilance in osteoporosis prevention.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Most pregnancies last 40 weeks but some babies arrive earlier than expected. Sadly, babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy—premature babies—are more likely to die than full-term babies, although recent improvements in neonatal care have increased their chances of survival. Premature babies also often have serious long-term health problems, particularly those born before 32 weeks of pregnancy. Such extremely premature babies have poorly developed internal organs and are usually very small—babies whose birth weight is less than 1,500 g are called very-low-birth-weight (VLBW) babies; the average full-term birth weight is about 3,500 g. Furthermore, their bones are not as well developed as those of full-term babies. The human skeleton initially consists of a soft fibrous material called cartilage. This is gradually transformed into bone by a process called bone mineralization. The last third of pregnancy is a crucial period for bone mineralization although the process continues throughout infancy and childhood. Thus, VLBW babies often have subnormal skeletal mineralization and their accrual of bone mass during childhood is frequently compromised.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is not known whether the childhood bone deficits of VLBW babies persist into adulthood because the first generation of these infants not to die soon after birth is only just reaching adulthood. Peak bone mass is reached in early adulthood (bone mass begins to decrease from the age of 35 years onward) and is an important indicator of whether an individual will develop osteoporosis (thinning of the bones) and be susceptible to bone fractures later in life. If adults with VLBW (about 1% of live births in high-income countries are now VLBW births) do have a subnormal peak bone mass and reduced bone mineral density (BMD), they may be able reduce their risk of developing osteoporosis by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. In this study (part of the Helsinki Study of Very Low Birth Weight Adults), the researchers investigate the skeletal health of people who were born with VLBW in the Helsinki area between 1978 and 1985.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers compared the skeletal health of 144 young adults who were born prematurely with VLBW and subnormal BMD with that of 139 age- and sex-matched individuals who were born at term. They measured the BMD of the participants (average age 22.6 years) using “dual energy X-ray absorptiometry” and determined a “Z score” for the spine in the lower back (the lower lumbar spine) and the hip (two sites that are routinely examined in assessments of skeletal health). Z scores indicate whether an individual's BMD is significantly different from the average BMD of healthy age- and sex-matched people; in this study, reduced BMD was defined as a Z score of −1.0 or less. The researchers found that adults born with VLBW had an average Z score of −0.51 at the lower lumbar spine and −0.56 at the hip when compared with the adults born at term. Furthermore, 44% of the VLBW participants but only 26% of the term-born participants had a lumbar spine Z score of −1.0 or less. Adjustment for the shorter height of the VLBW participants slightly reduced these differences in BMD but the differences remained statistically significant.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that, when studied close to the age of peak bone mass, young adults born with VLBW have a significantly lower BMD than their term-born peers and a 2-fold greater risk of having a lumbar spine Z score of below −1.0; a unit decrease in Z score approximately doubles the risk of bone fractures. Because BMD measurements were only taken at one age, it remains possible, however, that the BMD of the VLBW adults might eventually match that of their full-term peers. Recently born VLBW babies still have a lower than average BMD during their childhood, note the researchers, even though their care has changed since the people included in this study were born. Thus, these findings suggest that people who were VLBW infants should be encouraged to eat food rich in vitamin D and calcium and to do regular weight-bearing exercise throughout their lives to improve their bone health and reduce their risk of developing osteoporosis.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth (in English and Spanish)
The Nemours Foundation, another nonprofit organization for child health, also provides information on premature babies (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus provides links to other information on premature babies and to information on osteoporosis (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and the UK National Health Service also provide detailed information on all aspects of osteoporosis
Further details about the Helsinki Study of Very Low Birth Weight Adults are available
PMCID: PMC2722726  PMID: 19707270
15.  Birth Weight and Cognition in Children with Epilepsy 
Epilepsia  2014;55(6):901-908.
Birth weight is an important indicator of prenatal environment and subtle variations of birth weight within the normal range have been associated with differential risk for cognitive and behavioral problems. Therefore, we aimed to determine if there are differences in birth weight between full term children with uncomplicated new/recent-onset epilepsies and typically-developing healthy controls. We further examined the relationships between birth weight and childhood/adolescent cognition, behavior, and academic achievement.
108 children with new/recent-onset epilepsy and 70 healthy controls underwent neuropsychological assessment. All participants were born full-term (>37 weeks) without birth complications. Parents were interviewed regarding their child's gestation, birth and neurodevelopmental history.
Birth weight of children with epilepsy was significantly lower than healthy controls (p=0.023). Whereas birth weight (covaried with age, sex, handedness, and mother's education) was significantly associated with cognition in controls in multiple domains (intelligence, language, aspects of academic achievement), this relationship was absent in children with epilepsy. Birth weight was not associated with clinical epilepsy variables (age of onset, epilepsy syndrome) and was not predictive of a variety of other academic or psychiatric comorbidities of epilepsy.
Although the origin of lower birth weight in children with epilepsy is unknown, these findings raise the possibility that abnormal prenatal environment may impact childhood-onset epilepsy. Furthermore, the positive relationship between birth weight and cognition evident in healthy controls was disrupted in children with epilepsy. However, birth weight was not related to academic and psychiatric comorbidities of childhood epilepsy.
PMCID: PMC4057970  PMID: 24735169
Birth weight; cognition; academic achievement; new-onset epilepsy; localization-related epilepsy; idiopathic generalized epilepsy
16.  Genetic Markers of Adult Obesity Risk Are Associated with Greater Early Infancy Weight Gain and Growth 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(5):e1000284.
Ken Ong and colleagues genotyped children from the ALSPAC birth cohort and showed an association between greater early infancy gains in weight and length and genetic markers for adult obesity risk.
Genome-wide studies have identified several common genetic variants that are robustly associated with adult obesity risk. Exploration of these genotype associations in children may provide insights into the timing of weight changes leading to adult obesity.
Methods and Findings
Children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort were genotyped for ten genetic variants previously associated with adult BMI. Eight variants that showed individual associations with childhood BMI (in/near: FTO, MC4R, TMEM18, GNPDA2, KCTD15, NEGR1, BDNF, and ETV5) were used to derive an “obesity-risk-allele score” comprising the total number of risk alleles (range: 2–15 alleles) in each child with complete genotype data (n = 7,146). Repeated measurements of weight, length/height, and body mass index from birth to age 11 years were expressed as standard deviation scores (SDS). Early infancy was defined as birth to age 6 weeks, and early infancy failure to thrive was defined as weight gain between below the 5th centile, adjusted for birth weight. The obesity-risk-allele score showed little association with birth weight (regression coefficient: 0.01 SDS per allele; 95% CI 0.00–0.02), but had an apparently much larger positive effect on early infancy weight gain (0.119 SDS/allele/year; 0.023–0.216) than on subsequent childhood weight gain (0.004 SDS/allele/year; 0.004–0.005). The obesity-risk-allele score was also positively associated with early infancy length gain (0.158 SDS/allele/year; 0.032–0.284) and with reduced risk of early infancy failure to thrive (odds ratio  = 0.92 per allele; 0.86–0.98; p = 0.009).
The use of robust genetic markers identified greater early infancy gains in weight and length as being on the pathway to adult obesity risk in a contemporary birth cohort.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
The proportion of overweight and obese children is increasing across the globe. In the US, the Surgeon General estimates that, compared with 1980, twice as many children and three times the number of adolescents are now overweight. Worldwide, 22 million children under five years old are considered by the World Health Organization to be overweight.
Being overweight or obese in childhood is associated with poor physical and mental health. In addition, childhood obesity is considered a major risk factor for adult obesity, which is itself a major risk factor for cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and other chronic conditions.
The most commonly used measure of whether an adult is a healthy weight is body mass index (BMI), defined as weight in kilograms/(height in metres)2. However, adult categories of obese (>30) and overweight (>25) BMI are not directly applicable to children, whose BMI naturally varies as they grow. BMI can be used to screen children for being overweight and or obese but a diagnosis requires further information.
Why Was This Study Done?
As the numbers of obese and overweight children increase, a corresponding rise in future numbers of overweight and obese adults is also expected. This in turn is expected to lead to an increasing incidence of poor health. As a result, there is great interest among health professionals in possible pathways between childhood and adult obesity. It has been proposed that certain periods in childhood may be critical for the development of obesity.
In the last few years, ten genetic variants have been found to be more common in overweight or obese adults. Eight of these have also been linked to childhood BMI and/or obesity. The authors wanted to identify the timing of childhood weight changes that may be associated with adult obesity. Knowledge of obesity risk genetic variants gave them an opportunity to do so now, without following a set of children to adulthood.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The authors analysed data gathered from a subset of 7,146 singleton white European children enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) study, which is investigating associations between genetics, lifestyle, and health outcomes for a group of children in Bristol whose due date of birth fell between April 1991 and December 1992. They used knowledge of the children's genetic makeup to find associations between an obesity risk allele score—a measure of how many of the obesity risk genetic variants a child possessed—and the children's weight, height, BMI, levels of body fat (at nine years old), and rate of weight gain, up to age 11 years.
They found that, at birth, children with a higher obesity risk allele score were not any heavier, but in the immediate postnatal period they were less likely to be in the bottom 5% of the population for weight gain (adjusted for birthweight), often termed “failure to thrive.” At six weeks of age, children with a higher obesity risk allele score tended to be longer and heavier, even allowing for weight at birth.
After six weeks of age, the obesity risk allele score was not associated with any further increase in length/height, but it was associated with a more rapid weight gain between birth and age 11 years. BMI is derived from height and weight measurements, and the association between the obesity risk allele score and BMI was weak between birth and age three-and-a-half years, but after that age the association with BMI increased rapidly. By age nine, children with a higher obesity risk allele score tended to be heavier and taller, with more fat on their bodies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The combined obesity allele risk score is associated with higher rates of weight gain and adult obesity, and so the authors conclude that weight gain and growth even in the first few weeks after birth may be the beginning of a pathway of greater adult obesity risk.
A study that tracks a population over time can find associations but it cannot show cause and effect. In addition, only a relatively small proportion (1.7%) of the variation in BMI at nine years of age is explained by the obesity risk allele score.
The authors' method of finding associations between childhood events and adult outcomes via genetic markers of risk of disease as an adult has a significant advantage: the authors did not have to follow the children themselves to adulthood, so their findings are more likely to be relevant to current populations. Despite this, this research does not yield advice for parents how to reduce their children's obesity risk. It does suggest that “failure to thrive” in the first six weeks of life is not simply due to a lack of provision of food by the baby's caregiver but that genetic factors also contribute to early weight gain and growth.
The study looked at the combined obesity risk allele score and the authors did not attempt to identify which individual alleles have greater or weaker associations with weight gain and overweight or obesity. This would require further research based on far larger numbers of babies and children. The findings may also not be relevant to children in other types of setting because of the effects of different nutrition and lifestyles.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Further information is available on the ALSPAC study
The UK National Health Service and other partners provide guidance on establishing a healthy lifestyle for children and families in their Change4Life programme
The International Obesity Taskforce is a global network of expertise and the advocacy arm of the International Association for the Study of Obesity. It works with the World Health Organization, other NGOs, and stakeholders and provides information on overweight and obesity
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US provide guidance and tips on maintaining a healthy weight, including BMI calculators in both metric and Imperial measurements for both adults and children. They also provide BMI growth charts for boys and girls showing how healthy ranges vary for each sex at with age
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health provides growth charts for weight and length/height from birth to age 4 years that are based on WHO 2006 growth standards and have been adapted for use in the UK
The CDC Web site provides information on overweight and obesity in adults and children, including definitions, causes, and data
The CDC also provide information on the role of genes in causing obesity.
The World Health Organization publishes a fact sheet on obesity, overweight and weight management, including links to childhood overweight and obesity
Wikipedia includes an article on childhood obesity (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC2876048  PMID: 20520848
17.  Influence of variation in birth weight within normal range and within sibships on IQ at age 7 years: cohort study 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  2001;323(7308):310-314.
To examine the relation between birth weight and measured intelligence at age 7 years in children within the normal range of birth weight and in siblings.
Cohort study of siblings of the same sex.
12 cities in the United States.
3484 children of 1683 mothers in a birth cohort study during the years 1959 through 1966. The sample was restricted to children born at ⩾37 weeks gestation and with birth weights of 1500-3999 g.
Main outcome measure
Full scale IQ at age 7 years.
Mean IQ increased monotonically with birth weight in both sexes across the range of birth weight in a linear regression analysis of one randomly selected sibling per family (n= 1683) with adjustment for maternal age, race, education, socioeconomic status, and birth order. Within same sex sibling pairs, differences in birth weight were directly associated with differences in IQ in boys (812 pairs, predicted IQ difference per 100 g change in birth weight =0.50, 95% confidence interval 0.28 to 0.71) but not girls (871 pairs, 0.10, −0.09 to 0.30). The effect in boys remained after differences in birth order, maternal smoking, and head circumference were adjusted for and in an analysis restricted to children with birth weight ⩾ 2500 g.
The increase in childhood IQ with birth weight continues well into the normal birth weight range. For boys this relation holds within same sex sibships and therefore cannot be explained by confounding from family social environment.
What is already known on this topicIQ at school age is linked to birth weight among low birthweight babiesSome evidence suggests the association might also apply to children of normal birth weightWhat this study addsIQ at age 7 years is linearly related to birth weight among children of normal birth weightThe relation was not due to confounding by maternal or socioeconomic factorsIQ is also associated with differences in birth weight between boy sibling pairs but not girls
PMCID: PMC37317  PMID: 11498487
18.  Birth weight in a large series of triplets 
BMC Pediatrics  2011;11:24.
Triplets are often born premature and with a low birth weight. Because the incidence of triplet births is rare, there are relatively few studies describing triplet birth weight characteristics. Earlier studies are often characterized by small sample sizes and lack information on important background variables such as zygosity. The objective of this study is to examine factors associated with birth weight in a large, population-based sample of triplets registered with the Netherlands Twin Register (NTR).
In a sample of 1230 triplets from 410 families, the effects of assisted reproductive techniques, zygosity, birth order, gestational age, sex, maternal smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy on birth weight were assessed. The resemblance among triplets for birth weight was estimated as a function of zygosity. Birth weight discordance within families was studied by the pair-wise difference between triplets, expressed as a percentage of the birth weight of the heaviest child. We compare data from triplets registered with the NTR with data from population records, which include live births, stillbirths and children that have deceased within days after birth.
There was no effect of assisted reproductive techniques on triplet birth weight. At gestational age 24 to 40 weeks triplets gained on average 130 grams per week; boys weighed 110 grams more than girls and triplets of smoking mothers weighted 104 grams less than children of non-smoking mothers. Monozygotic triplets had lower birth weights than di- and trizygotic triplets and birth weight discordance was smaller in monozygotic triplets than in di- and trizygotic triplets. The correlation in birth weight among monozygotic and dizygotic triplets was 0.42 and 0.32, respectively. In nearly two-thirds of the families, the heaviest and the lightest triplet had a birth weight discordance over 15%. The NTR sample is representative for the Dutch triplet population that is still alive 28 days after birth.
Birth weight is an important determinant of childhood development. Triplet status, gestational age, sex, zygosity and maternal smoking affect birth weight. The combined effects amount to a difference of 364 grams between monozygotic girl triplets of smoking mothers compared to dizygotic boy triplets of non-smoking mothers of the same gestational age. Birth weight in triplets is also influenced by genetic factors, as indicated by a larger correlation in monozygotic than in di- and trizygotic triplets.
PMCID: PMC3087677  PMID: 21453554
19.  Gestational Age at Delivery and Special Educational Need: Retrospective Cohort Study of 407,503 Schoolchildren 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(6):e1000289.
A retrospective cohort study of 407,503 schoolchildren by Jill Pell and colleagues finds that gestational age at delivery has a dose-dependent relationship with the risk of special educational needs that extends across the full gestational range.
Previous studies have demonstrated an association between preterm delivery and increased risk of special educational need (SEN). The aim of our study was to examine the risk of SEN across the full range of gestation.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a population-based, retrospective study by linking school census data on the 407,503 eligible school-aged children resident in 19 Scottish Local Authority areas (total population 3.8 million) to their routine birth data. SEN was recorded in 17,784 (4.9%) children; 1,565 (8.4%) of those born preterm and 16,219 (4.7%) of those born at term. The risk of SEN increased across the whole range of gestation from 40 to 24 wk: 37–39 wk adjusted odds ratio (OR) 1.16, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.12–1.20; 33–36 wk adjusted OR 1.53, 95% CI 1.43–1.63; 28–32 wk adjusted OR 2.66, 95% CI 2.38–2.97; 24–27 wk adjusted OR 6.92, 95% CI 5.58–8.58. There was no interaction between elective versus spontaneous delivery. Overall, gestation at delivery accounted for 10% of the adjusted population attributable fraction of SEN. Because of their high frequency, early term deliveries (37–39 wk) accounted for 5.5% of cases of SEN compared with preterm deliveries (<37 wk), which accounted for only 3.6% of cases.
Gestation at delivery had a strong, dose-dependent relationship with SEN that was apparent across the whole range of gestation. Because early term delivery is more common than preterm delivery, the former accounts for a higher percentage of SEN cases. Our findings have important implications for clinical practice in relation to the timing of elective delivery.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Most pregnancies last around 40 weeks, but the number of babies who are born early is increasing. In the US, for example, more than half a million babies a year are now born before 37 weeks of gestation (gestation is the period during which a baby develops in its mother). Sadly, babies born this early (premature babies) are more likely to die than babies delivered between 37 and 42 weeks of gestation (term babies) and many have short- and/or long-term health problems. They are also more likely to have a “special educational need” (SEN) as children, a learning difficulty (for example, dyslexia or autism), or a physical difficulty such as deafness or poor vision that requires special educational help, than term babies. The severity of all the problems associated with being born early depends on the degree of prematurity. Thus, the risk of SEN associated with prematurity declines steadily with advancing gestational age up to 36 weeks. That is, a baby born at 24 weeks of gestation is more likely to have an SEN later in life than one born at 36 weeks of gestation.
Why Was This Study Done?
Early term births (between 37 and 39 weeks of gestation) are also becoming more common, because more mothers are electing to be delivered early for nonmedical reasons (so-called birth scheduling). Unfortunately, it is not known whether early term babies have an increased risk of SEN compared with babies born at 40 weeks, because few studies have looked at SEN in children born between 37 and 39 weeks of gestation. In this retrospective cohort study, the researchers investigate the risk of SEN across the whole spectrum of gestational age at delivery and use their results to calculate the fraction of SEN associated with delivery at different gestational ages—the “population attributable risk.” In a retrospective cohort study, researchers examine the medical records of groups of people who differ in a specific characteristic (in this case, having an SEN) for a particular outcome (in this case, gestational age at birth).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers linked 2005 School Census data (which includes a record of all children with an SEN) for more than 400,000 school-aged children in 19 Scottish Local Authority areas (covering three-quarters of the Scottish population) with routine birth data held in the Scottish Morbidity Record. SEN was recorded for nearly 18,000 children (4.9% of the children). 8.4% of the children who were born preterm and 4.7% of those born at term were recorded as having an SEN. The risk of SEN increased across the gestation range from 40 to 24 weeks. Thus, compared to children born at 40 weeks, children born at 37–39 weeks of gestation were 1.16 times as likely to have an SEN—an odds ratio of 1.16. Children born at 33–36, 28–32, and 24–27 weeks were 1.53, 2.66, and 6.92 times as likely to have an SEN, respectively, as children born at 40 weeks. Although the risk of SEN was much higher in preterm than in early term babies, because many more children were born between 37 and 39 weeks (about a third of babies) than before 37 weeks (one in 20 babies), early term births accounted for 5.5% of cases of SEN, whereas preterm deliveries accounted for only 3.6% of cases.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that gestational age at delivery strongly affects a child's subsequent risk of having an SEN in a dose-dependent manner across the whole range of gestational age. Furthermore, because early term delivery is much more common than preterm delivery, these findings show that early term delivery is responsible for more cases of SEN than preterm delivery. These findings, which are likely to be accurate because of the large size of the study and its design, have important implications for the timing of elective delivery. They suggest that deliveries should ideally wait until 40 weeks of gestation because even a baby born at 39 weeks—the normal timing for elective deliveries these days—has an increased risk of SEN compared with a baby born a week later.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization for pregnancy and baby health, provides information on preterm birth and an article on why the last weeks of pregnancy count (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has information on preterm labor and birth and on learning disabilities
The UK Government provides information for parents on special educational needs
Medline Plus has links to further information on both premature birth and learning disabilities (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC2882432  PMID: 20543995
20.  Macrosomic Neonates Carry Increased Risk of Dental Caries in Early Childhood: Findings from a Cohort Study, the Okinawa Child Health Study, Japan 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0133872.
Although many studies have discussed health risks in neonates with a low birth weight, few studies have focused on the risks in neonates with a high birth weight. The objective of this study was to determine whether differences in the incidence of dental caries in early childhood are associated with birth weight status.
A total of 117,175 children born in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan from 1997 to 2007 were included in this study. Medical professionals collected information about birth records, growth and development, parental child-rearing practices and dental health at 3 months, 18 months and 3 years of age. The risk of dental caries among neonates with macrosomia (birth weight ≥4000 g) was compared with that among neonates with normal weight (2500–3999 g). Sensitivity analyses included ‘large for gestational age’ (LGA, birth weight above the 90th percentile for gestational age), which was relative to ‘appropriate for gestational age’ (birth weight between 10th and 90th percentiles). Relative risks and relative risk increases were estimated by multivariate Poisson regression.
At 3 years of age, the relative risk increases for dental caries after adjusting for confounding factors were 19% [95% confidence interval (CI), 11%–28%, P < 0.001] for macrosomic neonates and 12% (95% CI, 9%–16%, P < 0.001) for LGA neonates.
Macrosomia and LGA were associated with an increased risk of dental caries in early childhood. Particular attention should be paid to abnormally large neonates.
PMCID: PMC4514765  PMID: 26207737
21.  Behavioural symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in preterm and term children born small and appropriate for gestational age: A longitudinal study 
BMC Pediatrics  2010;10:91.
It remains unclear whether it is more detrimental to be born too early or too small in relation to symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Thus, we tested whether preterm birth and small body size at birth adjusted for gestational age are independently associated with symptoms of ADHD in children.
A longitudinal regional birth cohort study comprising 1535 live-born infants between 03/15/1985 and 03/14/1986 admitted to the neonatal wards and 658 randomly recruited non-admitted infants, in Finland. The present study sample comprised 828 children followed up to 56 months. The association between birth status and parent-rated ADHD symptoms of the child was analysed with multiple linear and logistic regression analyses.
Neither prematurity (birth < 37 weeks of gestation) nor lower gestational age was associated with ADHD symptoms. However, small for gestational age (SGA < -2 standard deviations [SD] below the mean for weight at birth) status and lower birth weight SD score were significantly, and independently of gestational age, associated with higher ADHD symptoms. Those born SGA, relative to those born AGA, were also 3.60-times more likely to have ADHD symptoms scores above the clinical cut-off. The associations were not confounded by factors implicated as risks for pregnancy and/or ADHD.
Intrauterine growth restriction, reflected in SGA status and lower birth weight, rather than prematurity or lower gestational age per se, may increase risk for symptoms of ADHD in young children.
PMCID: PMC3012665  PMID: 21159164
22.  Birth Outcome in Women with Previously Treated Breast Cancer—A Population-Based Cohort Study from Sweden 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(9):e336.
Data on birth outcome and offspring health after the appearance of breast cancer are limited. The aim of this study was to assess the risk of adverse birth outcomes in women previously treated for invasive breast cancer compared with the general population of mothers.
Methods and Findings
Of all 2,870,932 singleton births registered in the Swedish Medical Birth Registry during 1973–2002, 331 first births following breast cancer surgery—with a mean time to pregnancy of 37 mo (range 7–163)—were identified using linkage with the Swedish Cancer Registry.
Logistic regression analysis was used. The estimates were adjusted for maternal age, parity, and year of delivery. Odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were used to estimate infant health and mortality, delivery complications, the risk of preterm birth, and the rates of instrumental delivery and cesarean section.
The large majority of births from women previously treated for breast cancer had no adverse events. However, births by women exposed to breast cancer were associated with an increased risk of delivery complications (OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.2–1.9), cesarean section (OR 1.3, 95% CI 1.0–1.7), very preterm birth (<32 wk) (OR 3.2, 95% CI 1.7–6.0), and low birth weight (<1500 g) (OR 2.9, 95% CI 1.4–5.8). A tendency towards an increased risk of malformations among the infants was seen especially in the later time period (1988–2002) (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.2–3.7).
It is reassuring that births overall were without adverse events, but our findings indicate that pregnancies in previously treated breast cancer patients should possibly be regarded as higher risk pregnancies, with consequences for their surveillance and management.
The large majority of births from women previously treated for breast cancer had no adverse events, but such pregnancies might benefit from increased surveillance and management.
Editors' Summary
More women of all ages are developing breast cancer than ever before. In the US, one woman in eight will now develop this disease during her lifetime. For most of these women, their breast cancer diagnosis will come late in life, but a fifth of breast cancers are diagnosed before the age of 50. These days, the long-term outlook for women with breast cancer is quite good; 80% of women who receive a diagnosis of breast cancer survive more than five years. These figures, together with a trend towards starting families later in life—since the late 1970s birth rates for women in their late 30s and 40s have more than doubled in the US, and in Sweden the average age for having a first baby is now 29 years—mean that many women who have had breast cancer want to have children. One estimate is that up to 7% of women who are fertile after treatment for breast cancer will later have children.
Why Was This Study Done?
Pregnancy seems to have no adverse affects on women who have had breast cancer—there is no evidence that pregnancy can trigger a relapse. However, little is known about whether the chemotherapy and radiotherapy used to treat breast cancer have any long-lasting effects that might result in a poor birth outcome such as stillbirth, low birth weight, premature delivery, or abnormalities in the baby (congenital abnormalities). In this study, the researchers assessed the risk of adverse birth outcomes in women previously treated for breast cancer in Sweden.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Nearly three million singleton births that occurred between 1973 and 2002 are recorded in the Swedish Medical Birth Registry. The researchers linked this information with that in the Swedish Cancer Registry to identify 331 first births after treatment for invasive breast cancer (cancer that has spread from where it started to grow in the breast). The birth registry includes details on maternal age and health, child's birth weight, whether the delivery was preterm, and whether the child had any congenital abnormalities, so the researchers were able to compare birth outcomes in these 331 births with those in the general population. They discovered that most births after breast cancer treatment went smoothly. There was no increase in stillbirths, but there were slightly more delivery complications in the women who had had breast cancer than in the general population, and a slight increase in babies born prematurely or with low birth weight. Finally, a few more babies with congenital abnormalities were born to women after breast cancer treatment than to women in the general population.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Overall, these results should reassure women who are thinking about having children after breast cancer about the health of their future offspring. However, they do suggest that these women may need careful monitoring during late pregnancy and delivery. This result was not predicted by the researchers who performed the study. Before starting the study, they thought that there would be no difference in birth outcomes between patients previously treated for breast cancer and the general population. Furthermore, a recently published similar study in Denmark found no increased risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, or congenital abnormalities after breast cancer. Differences between the two countries in the accuracy of their registries or in the use of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments may account for this difference in results. Additional studies are now needed in other populations to resolve this discrepancy and to provide more information about how breast cancer treatment might affect birth outcomes. For example, the current study did not provide any information about whether specific chemotherapy regimens or different types of breast cancer might put women at a higher risk of adverse birth outcomes, or whether the time between the cancer diagnosis and treatment and the pregnancy made a difference.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
MedlinePlus encyclopedia entry on breast cancer
National Cancer Institute information for patients and physicians on breast cancer, including links to pages on breast cancer and pregnancy
Cancer Research UK's information on breast cancer for patients, and statistics on breast cancer in the UK
• Wikipedia page on breast cancer (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists guidelines for physicians on pregnancy and breast cancer
PMCID: PMC1564170  PMID: 16968117
23.  Preterm birth, infant weight gain, and childhood asthma risk: A meta-analysis of 147,000 European children 
Preterm birth, low birth weight, and infant catch-up growth seem associated with an increased risk of respiratory diseases in later life, but individual studies showed conflicting results.
We performed an individual participant data meta-analysis for 147,252 children of 31 birth cohort studies to determine the associations of birth and infant growth characteristics with the risks of preschool wheezing (1-4 years) and school-age asthma (5-10 years).
First, we performed an adjusted 1-stage random-effect meta-analysis to assess the combined associations of gestational age, birth weight, and infant weight gain with childhood asthma. Second, we performed an adjusted 2-stage random-effect meta-analysis to assess the associations of preterm birth (gestational age <37 weeks) and low birth weight (<2500 g) with childhood asthma outcomes.
Younger gestational age at birth and higher infant weight gain were independently associated with higher risks of preschool wheezing and school-age asthma (P < .05). The inverse associations of birth weight with childhood asthma were explained by gestational age at birth. Compared with term-born children with normal infant weight gain, we observed the highest risks of school-age asthma in children born preterm with high infant weight gain (odds ratio [OR], 4.47; 95% CI, 2.58-7.76). Preterm birth was positively associated with an increased risk of preschool wheezing (pooled odds ratio [pOR], 1.34; 95% CI, 1.25-1.43) and school-age asthma (pOR, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.18-1.67) independent of birth weight. Weaker effect estimates were observed for the associations of low birth weight adjusted for gestational age at birth with preschool wheezing (pOR, 1.10; 95% CI, 1.00-1.21) and school-age asthma (pOR, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.01-1.27).
Younger gestational age at birth and higher infant weight gain were associated with childhood asthma outcomes. The associations of lower birth weight with childhood asthma were largely explained by gestational age at birth.
PMCID: PMC4024198  PMID: 24529685
Gestational age; low birth weight; infant growth; wheezing; asthma; children; cohort studies; epidemiology; BMI, Body mass index; ISAAC, International Study on Asthma and Allergy in Childhood; OR, Odds ratio; pOR, Pooled odds ratio; SDS, Standard deviation scores
24.  Birth weight, gestational age, fetal growth and childhood asthma hospitalization 
Childhood asthma may have a fetal origin through fetal growth and development of the immunocompetence or respiratory organs.
We examined to which extent short gestational age, low birth weight and fetal growth restriction were associated with an increased risk of asthma hospitalization in childhood.
We undertook a cohort study based on several national registers in Denmark, Sweden and Finland. We included all live singleton born children in Denmark during 1979-2005 (N = 1,538,093), in Sweden during 1973-2004 (N = 3,067,670), and a 90% random sample of singleton children born in Finland during 1987-2004 (N = 1,050,744). The children were followed from three years of age to first hospitalization for asthma, emigration, death, their 18th birthday, or the end of study (the end of 2008 in Denmark, and the end of 2007 in Sweden or Finland), whichever came first. We computed the pseudo-values for each observation and used them in a generalized estimating equation to estimate relative risks (RR) for asthma hospitalization.
A total of 131,783 children were hospitalized for asthma during follow-up. The risk for asthma hospitalization consistently increased with lower birth weight and shorter gestational age. A 1000-g decrease in birth weight corresponded to a RR of 1.17 (95% confidence interval (CI) 1.15-1.18). A one-week decrease in gestational age corresponded to a RR of 1.05 (95% CI 1.04-1.06). Small for gestational age was associated with an increased risk of asthma hospitalization in term but not in preterm born children.
Fetal growth and gestational age may play a direct or indirect causal role in the development of childhood asthma.
PMCID: PMC3973844  PMID: 24602245
Asthma; Birth weight; Gestational age; Hospitalization; Small for gestational age
25.  US Birth Weight/Gestational Age-Specific Neonatal Mortality: 1995–1997 Rates for Whites, Hispanics, and Blacks 
Pediatrics  2003;111(1):e61-e66.
In recent years, gains in neonatal survival have been most evident among very low birth weight, preterm, and low birth weight (LBW) infants. Most of the improvement in neonatal survival since the early 1980s seems to be the consequence of decreasing birth weight-specific mortality rates, which occurred during a period of increasing preterm and LBW rates. Although the decline in neonatal mortality has been widely publicized in the United States, research suggests that clinicians may still underestimate the chances of survival of an infant who is born too early or too small and may overestimate the eventuality of serious disability. So that clinicians may have current and needed ethnic- and race-specific estimates of the “chances” of early survival for newborn infants, we examined birth weight/gestational age-specific neonatal mortality rates for the 3 largest ethnic/racial groups in the United States: non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics, and non-Hispanic blacks. Marked racial variation in birth weight and gestational age-specific mortality has long been recognized, and growing concerns have been raised about ongoing and increasing racial disparities in pregnancy outcomes. Our purpose for this investigation was to provide an up-to-date national reference for birth weight/gestational age-specific neonatal mortality rates for use by clinicians in care decision making and discussions with parents.
The National Center for Health Statistics linked live birth-infant death cohort files for 1995–1997 were used for this study. Singleton live births to US resident mothers with a reported maternal ethnicity/race of non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, or Hispanic (n = 10 610 715) were selected for analysis. Birth weight/gestational age-specific neonatal mortality rates were calculated using 250 g/2-week intervals for each ethnic/racial group.
The overall neonatal mortality rates for whites, Hispanics, and blacks were 3.24, 3.45, and 8.16 neonatal deaths per 1000 live births, and the proportion of births <28 weeks was 0.35%, 0.45%, and 1.39%, respectively. Newborns who weighed <1500 g comprised <2.5% of all births in each racial/ethnic group but accounted for >50% of neonatal deaths. For whites, Hispanics, and blacks, >50% of newborns 24 to 25 weeks of gestational age survived. For most combinations of birth weights <3500 g and gestational ages of <37 weeks, the neonatal mortality rate was lowest among blacks, compared with whites or Hispanics. At these same gestational age/birth weight combinations, Hispanics have slightly lower mortality rates than whites. For combinations of birth weights >3500 g and gestational ages of 37 to 41 weeks, Hispanics had the lowest neonatal mortality rate. In these birth weight/gestational age combinations, where approximately two thirds of births occur, blacks had the highest neonatal mortality rate.
Compared with earlier reports, these data suggest that a substantial improvement in birth weight/gestational age-specific neonatal mortality has occurred in the United States. Regardless of ethnicity/race, the risk of a neonatal death does not exceed 50% (the suggested definition for the limit of viability), except for birth weights below 500 g and gestational ages <24 weeks. Notwithstanding, ethnic/racial variations in neonatal mortality rates continue to persist, both in overall rates and within birth weight/gestational age categories. Blacks continue to have higher proportions for preterm and LBW births, compared with either whites or Hispanics. At the same time, blacks experience lower risks of neonatal mortality for preterm and LBW infants, while having higher risks of mortality among term, postterm, normal birth weight, and macrosomic births.
PMCID: PMC1382183  PMID: 12509596
VLBW, very low birth weight; LBW, low birth weight; BG-NMR, birth weight/gestational age-specific neonatal mortality rate; NCHS, National Center for Health Statistics; LMP, last normal menstrual period

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