Health of mom key factor in baby size, researchers say

Contrary to common belief, it’s not the mother’s status, race or ethnicity that necessarily determines a baby’s birth weight – it’s the health of the mother.

A new study, INTERGROWTH-21st, discovered that babies delivered to healthy mothers around the world had an amazingly similar size and weight. These findings, reported by Oxford University researchers, were determined by examining nearly 60,000 pregnancies in urban areas in India, China, Brazil, Kenya, Oman, the UK, USA and Italy.

There is a wide range of birth weight and size of babies across the globe, which has a significant impact on future health. Mothers from poor families are already undernourished, and delivering a small baby who is undernourished at birth poses serious health consequences for the long term.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, almost 870 million people were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010 to 2012.

Lead author Professor Jose Villar of the Nuffield Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, University of Oxford and colleagues showed that it is not race or ethnicity that is the precursor for low birth weight, but rather the health and nutrition of the birthing mother that determines a baby’s birth weight, regardless of which part of the world she resides in.

“Currently we are not all equal at birth. But we can be. We can create a similar start for all by making sure mothers are well educated and nourished, by treating infection and by providing adequate antenatal care,” said Villar in a statement.