LOW BIRTH WEIGHT
Low birth weight (LBW) infant is defi ned as one whose birth weight is less than 2500 g irrespective of the gestational age. Very-low birth weight (VLBW) infants weigh 1500 g or less and extremely-low birth weight (ELBW) infants weigh 1000g or less. (WHO)
Babies with low birth weight look much smaller than other babies of normal birth weight. A low birth weight baby's head may appear to be bigger than the rest of the body, and he or she often looks thin with little body fat.
The primary cause of low birthweight is premature birth (being born before 37 weeks gestation). Being born early means a baby has less time in the mother's uterus to grow and gain weight. Much of a baby's weight is gained during the latter part of pregnancy.
Another cause of low birthweight is intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). This occurs when a baby does not grow well during pregnancy because of problems with the placenta, the mother's health, or the baby's condition. A baby can have IUGR and be born at full term (37 to 41 weeks). Babies with IUGR born at term may be physically mature but may be weak. Premature babies that have IUGR are both very small and physically immature.
Any baby born prematurely is more likely to be very small. However, there are other factors that can also contribute to the risk of very low birthweight. These include:
- African-American babies are two times more likely to have low birthweight than white babies.
- Teen mothers (especially those younger than 15 years old) have a much higher risk of having a baby with low birthweight.
- Multiple birth.Multiple birth babies are at increased risk for low birthweight because they often are premature. Over half of twins and other multiples have low birthweight.
- Mother's health.Babies of mothers who are exposed to illicit drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes are more likely to have low birthweight. Mothers of lower socioeconomic status are also more likely to have poorer pregnancy nutrition, inadequate prenatal care, and pregnancy complications--all factors that can contribute to low birthweight.
SIGN AND SYMPTOMS
The following are some of the common problems of low birthweight babies:
- Low oxygen levels at birth
- Inability to maintain body temperature
- Difficulty feeding and gaining weight
- Breathing problems, such as infant respiratory distress syndrome (a respiratory disease of prematurity caused by immature lungs)
- Neurologic problems, such as intraventricular hemorrhage (bleeding inside the brain)
- Gastrointestinal problems, such as necrotizing enterocolitis (a serious disease of the intestine common in premature babies)
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
During pregnancy, a baby's birthweight can be estimated in different ways. The height of the fundus (the top of a mother's uterus) can be measured from the pubic bone. This measurement in centimeters usually corresponds with the number of weeks of pregnancy after the 20th week. If the measurement is low for the number of weeks, the baby may be smaller than expected. Ultrasound (a test using sound waves to create a picture of internal structures) is a more accurate method of estimating fetal size. Measurements can be taken of the fetus' head, abdomen, and femur and compared with a growth chart to estimate fetal weight.
Babies are weighed within the first few hours after birth.
Homeopathy plays an important role in our neonatology department within our holistic approach to the treatment of premature and sick newborn babies, together with the necessary medical/intensive care and newborn individualised developmental care. The result of this combination is an optimised outcome for the baby and his/her family as well as an enhancement of the professional teamwork by integrating the observations of neonatologists and nurses into the process of homeopathic case-taking and treatment. Depending on the case and the circumstances different homeopathic approaches to find a simillimum can be used.
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