Race Disparities and Decreasing Birth Weight: Are All Babies Getting Smaller?

Janet M. Catov, Minjae Lee, James M. Roberts, Jia Xu, Hyagriv N. Simhan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

The mean infant birth weight in the United States increased for decades, but it might now be decreasing. Given race disparities in fetal growth, we explored race-specific trends in birth weight at Magee-Womens Hospital, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from 1997 to 2011. Among singleton births delivered at 37-41 weeks (n = 70,607), we evaluated the proportions who were small for gestational age and large for gestational age and changes in mean birth weights over time. Results were stratified by maternal race/ethnicity. Since 1997, the number of infants born small for their gestational ages increased (8.7%-9.9%), whereas the number born large for their gestational ages decreased (8.9%-7.7%). After adjustment for gestational week at birth, maternal characteristics, and pregnancy conditions, birth weight decreased by 2.20 g per year (P < 0.0001). Decreases were greater for spontaneous births. Reductions were significantly greater in infants born to African-American women than in those born to white women (-3.78 vs.-1.88 per year; P for interaction = 0.010). Quantile regression models indicated that birth weight decreased across the entire distribution, but reductions among infants born to African-American women were limited to those in the upper quartile after accounting for maternal factors. Limiting the analysis to low-risk women eliminated birth weight reductions. Birth weight has decreased in recent years, and reductions were greater in infants born to African-American women. These trends might be explained by accumulation of risk factors such as hypertension and prepregnancy obesity that disproportionately affect African-American women. Our results raise the possibility of worsening race disparities in fetal growth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-23
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Epidemiology
Volume183
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • birth weight
  • growth restriction
  • macrosomia
  • obesity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology

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