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Low Birth Weight

Low Birth Weight

The percent of all births and births in selected racial groups with birth weight less than 2,500 grams (approximately 5.5 pounds).


Percentage of Low Birth Weight (<2500g) Infants
2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
MD 9.4% 9.2% 9.4% 9.1% 9.3% 9.2% 8.8% 8.9% 8.8% 8.5%
US 8.1% 8.2% 8.3% 8.2% 8.2% 8.2% 8.2% 8.1% 8.0% 8.0%

Story Behind the Data:

Low birth weight (LBW) is a significant contributor to infant mortality, and infants with LBW are also at increased risk of developmental delays.  Low birth weight infants may be either born prematurely (before 37 weeks gestation) or full-term (37 to 41 weeks gestation), but small for gestational age.

The percent of infants with LBW born in Maryland, at 8.5% in 2013, continues to be higher than the national average, at 8.0%, although that gap continues to shrink.  While the percent of infants with LBW increased in Maryland and nationally between 2001 and 2006, the rate has declined in Maryland and nationally since that time.

Some of the same racial disparities occur in LBW as in infant mortality, with Black infants nearly twice as likely to be born at LBW compared to White infants.*  Key maternal risk factors for LBW include chronic disease (such as hypertension), smoking, obesity, unintended pregnancy, late or no prenatal care, and maternal age.

LBW remains a key indicator both in Maryland and nationally.  In 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched Healthy People 2020, a ten year plan for improving America’s health, and included the goal of reducing low birth weights to 7.8% of all live births by 2020.  Maryland continues its work to ensure an ongoing decline in the percentage of LBW infants through a number of programs at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau.


Additional Information:


*For Maryland data, racial groupings were determined by the race of the mother.