Low birth weight in the United States1–3

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Pregnancy outcomes in the United States and other developed countries are considerably better than those in many developing countries. However, adverse pregnancy outcomes are generally more common in the United States than in other developed countries. Low-birth-weight infants, born after a preterm birth or secondary to intrauterine growth restriction, account for much of the increased morbidity, mortality, and cost. Wide disparities exist in both preterm birth and growth restriction among different population groups. Poor and black women, for example, have twice the preterm birth rate and higher rates of growth restriction than do most other women. Low birth weight in general is thought to place the infant at greater risk of later adult chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Of interest, maternal thinness is a strong predictor of both preterm birth and fetal growth restriction. However, in the United States, several nutritional interventions, including high-protein diets, caloric supplementation, calcium and iron supplementation, and various other vitamin and mineral supplementations, have not generally reduced preterm birth or growth restriction. Bacterial intrauterine infections play an important role in the etiology of the earliest preterm births, but, at least to date, antibiotic treatment either before labor for risk factors such as bacterial vaginosis or during preterm labor have not consistently reduced the preterm birth rate. Most interventions have failed to reduce preterm birth or growth restriction. The substantial improvement in newborn survival in the United States over the past several decades is mostly due to better access to improved neonatal care for low-birth-weight infants. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85(suppl):584S-90S.

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