A Revised Birth Weight Reference for the United States

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To generate birth weight curves based on the obstetric estimate of gestational age as specified in the revised 2003 U.S. birth certificate.


Using National Center for Health Statistics data from 2011, we constructed birth weight curves for neonates between 24 and 42 weeks of gestation. Curves were developed using the obstetric estimate of gestational age that is included in the revised 2003 U.S. birth certificate, which, when available, incorporates ultrasound dating information. Live-born singleton neonates between 500 and 6,000 g without malformations were included. These curves were compared with curves we generated using 1991 data on which the current national reference of Alexander and colleagues is based, a reference that used only last menstrual period to establish gestational age.


The 1991 curves were based on 3,684,778 U.S. live births and the 2011 on 3,252,011 births. Birth weight percentile values were greater from 28 to 36 weeks of gestation in the 1991 data set. That is, the birth weights for preterm neonates were overestimated when 1991 reference curves were used compared with the proposed 2011 reference. For example, in 1991, a birth weight of 2,000 g was at the 50th percentile between 31 and 32 weeks of gestation, whereas in 2011, a birth weight of 2,000 g now corresponds to the 50th percentile between 33 and 34 weeks of gestation.


Our revised reference curve for the United States provides an updated national reference for birth weight.



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