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Low Birth Weight - Babies weighing less than 2500 grams at birth in Pennsylvania

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Why This Indicator Matters

Low birth weight (LBW) is a term used to describe babies born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. The two main causes of LBW are preterm birth, when a baby is born prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy and fetal growth restriction, a condition in which the baby weighs less than the 10th percentile for its gestational age.[1] While some LBW babies are entirely healthy despite their small size, having a low weight at birth can lead to immediate and lifelong health problems. Short-term complications of LBW include trouble breathing, staying warm, feeding, and gaining weight; jaundice; and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).[2] Babies born LBW also have an increased likelihood of experiencing long-term health conditions and disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, and developmental delay.[3] Many factors have been found to contribute to the risk of LBW, including young age at time of pregnancy, giving birth to multiples, poor maternal health, and race.[4] In fact, Non-Hispanic (NH) Black mothers are nearly twice as likely as NH White mothers to give birth to a low birth weight baby. This disparity is largely caused by social determinants of health (the justice system, physical and social environment, income and wealth, housing, transportation, and education) that exist within a health care system reinforced by institutional racism.[5]

[1] March of Dimes. (2021). Low Birthweight.

[4] Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. (2022). Low Birthweight.

[5] Clay, S. L. (2023). Black/White Disparities in Low Birth Weight Pregnancy Outcomes: An Exploration of Differences in Health Factors within a Vulnerable Population. International Journal of Health Promotion and Education, 61(3), 115-126.

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Definition and Source



The number and percent of babies born during the year weighing under 2,500 grams.

Data Source

Pennsylvania Department of Health, Bureau of Health Statistics and Research. Pennsylvania Vital Statistics annual report series. The Pennsylvania Department of Health specifically disclaims responsibility for any analyses, interpretations, or conclusions.


ND = DATA NOT DISPLAYED. Statistics (rates, ratios, percents) are not calculated and displayed for counts less than 10 (or less than 3 for Bayesian/Nearest Neighbor rates). This is due to the unreliability of statistics based on small numbers of events.

Last Updated

May 2024