Posted by Claudia Grazioso on April 12, 2012
When I was pregnant with one of my children, several “helpful” people glanced at my belly and said, “Oh, she’s going to be really small.” Just how they gleaned that from my super-sized waistline, swayed back and ginormous tunics, I don’t know. But it did worry me a little. What happens if she’s small? What complications would we face?
It turned out that I didn’t need to worry too much. My daughter was born at a healthy 6 pounds, just an ounce smaller than her sibling whom, the same “helpful” people had assured me, would be gigantic. But I did look into low-birth-weight babies, and was surprised to learn that a mere 8 ounces — about a cup of water — separated my baby from the complications associated with being low birth weight.
Technically, babies who are born weighing five pounds, eight ounces or smaller are considered low birth weight. Because of the wonders of modern medicine, many low-birth-weight babies now go on to thrive and live completely normal lives. Still, babies born weighing so little are more prone to a variety problems. Children born at a low birth weight are more like to develop vision and hearing loss, cerebral palsy and learning disabilities. There are also serious conditions that are more common to babies born at a very low birth weight. These include Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS), a heart condition known as Patent Ductus Ateriosis (PDA), Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC), an intestinal disorder that can lead to feeding problems and Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a condition effecting blood vessels in the eye that happens primarily in babies born before 32 weeks.
There are some things you can do to lower risk of having a baby with low birth weight. First and foremost, get early and comprehensive prenatal care. Work with your doctor to manage and control chronic conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes. Take folic acid and if you are a smoker, stop. Also, studies have found a link between moms who take Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac, Zoloft and Celexa and low birth weight. In fact, a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that not only are these babies at an increased risk for low birth weight, but they are also at an increased risk for respiratory problems. If you suffer from depression, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of taking SSRI medications.