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The relationship between maternal weight gain in pregnancy, hemoglobin level, stature, antenatal attendance and low birth weight.

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Department of Primary Care, NW Armed Forces Hospital Tabuk, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.


Low birth weight (birth weight less 2,500 g) remains a major public health problem in many communities. Five hundred and twenty-eight (528) consecutive singleton maternities delivered at the Armed Forces Hospital Tabuk, northwest Saudi Arabia were studied to identify the relationship between prenatal weight gain, maternal hemoglobin at delivery, maternal stature, antenatal clinic attendance and low birth weight (LBW). Of the total number, 9.5% (50/528) babies were of low birth weight, 56% of which were preterm while 44% were term and small for gestational age, resembling the pattern observed in developed countries rather than developing countries. Mothers who delivered LBW babies gained significantly less weight in the 3rd trimester and last 4 weeks of term pregnancy when compared with controls who had normal weight babies (NW > or = 2,500 g) who were delivered in the study period (t = 4.06, p < 0.0001, t = 3.7, p < 0.001). There was no significant difference in the prenatal weight gain in the second trimester for the two groups of mothers (p = 0.53). Mothers with LBW babies also had significantly lower Body Mass Index (BMI) at onset of pregnancy (t = 3.8, p = 0.001) and were shorter in height (t = 2.12, p < 0.03). Mothers who delivered preterm LBW babies had significantly lower hemoglobin levels at delivery when compared with those who had NW deliveries (p < 0.002). There was no difference in hemoglobin levels of mothers who had LBW babies at term and those with NW at term (p = 0.72). For this community, it is suggested that to reduce the LBW baby rate and improve birth weight, anemia must be prevented in pregnancy; attention needs to be paid to weight gained in the third trimester and the last 4 weeks of pregnancy encouraging antenatal clinic attendance, and improving the nutritional status of female children so that optimal height is achieved by the age of reproduction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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