Oklahoma ranks 30 (of 51) for low birthweight. North Dakota was ranked first with the lowest low birthweight outcomes at 6.6 percent, and Mississippi reported the worst outcomes at 12.35 percent.
Low birthweight is defined as a baby born weighing less than 2500 grams (5 lbs 8 oz) per 100,000 births.
An average newborn usually weighs approximately 8 pounds. Low birth weight can be caused by premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Much of the baby’s weight is gained during the last weeks of pregnancy. Another cause of low birth weight is called intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). This occurs when a baby does not grow well during pregnancy. It may be because of problems with the placenta, the mother’s health, or the baby’s health.
Healthy birth spacing helps prevent low birth weight. Healthy birth spacing generally calls for 18-24 months between pregnancies.
The health of Oklahoma women impacts the health of their children. Infant birthweight is impacted by several factors including but not limited to: environmental stressors, the mother’s access to proper nutrition, stress levels, and ability to receive regular prenatal care. The consequences for low birthweight infants can be severe, and include respiratory distress syndrome, bleeding in the brain, intestinal issues, and damage to the retina. Later in life, these complications can lead to diabetes, blindness, deafness, heart disease, and breathing problems, among several other conditions. The data shows that, Black women are twice as likely to have a low birthweight baby than white women. Research designed to control for environmental factors has found that this disparity exists due to the effect of weathering. The weathering hypothesis states that chronic exposure to social and economic disadvantage leads to accelerated decline in physical health outcomes and could partially explain racial disparities in a wide array of health conditions. This historical and institutionalized trauma negatively impacts both the mother and baby’s health.
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