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Low Birth Weight and Infant Mortality in a Major Hospital in Riyadh City, January-June 1999.


The reduction of infant mortality is a major goal of the Saudi government health plans and is considered as part of the future strategy for health. Half the infant deaths occur during the first month of life. Low birth weight (LBW) is defined as a birth weight of less than 2,500 gm (5.0 oz). Neonatal mortality was found to be 40 times more likely among LBW infants. Our objectives were to investigate the birth weight pattern and maturity of infants who weighed <2500 gm at birth in a 6-month period, to determine the prevalence rate of low birth weight in a period of 6 months from January to June, 1999, inclusive and to identify the possible causes of death among such infants.


The Ministry of Health (MOH) with department of hospital affairs, the hospital administration, the department of infection control and the assigned pediatrician were consulted. An official approval was obtained. A data collection form was designed to obtain the necessary information including sex, age, birthweight, condition of the baby, outcome (alive or dead), date of delivery and date of discharge or death.


The total number of infants delivered between January and June 1999 were 8749 infants, of which 504 (5.8%) were below the normal weight. LBW constituted 356 (70.6%), 67 (13.3%) were of VLBW and 81 (16.2%) belonged to the ELBW. The mortality rate for all infants below normal weight was 1 infant per hundred. Among the studied 504 LBW infants, 423 (84%) were alive and 81 (16.1%) died. Among the dead infants 22 (27.2%) were LBW, 11 (13.6%) were VLBW, and 48 (59.3%) were ELBW.


Our best defense against infant mortality and LBW is early and continuous prenatal care especially among members of high-risk medical and socio-economic groups. Large proportion of LBW cases are associated with short gestation, this implies that women with LBW deliveries have less time to receive prenatal care. LBW infants are more susceptible to other conditions such as lower respiratory tract infections, hearing disorders, behavioral problems, and complications of neonatal intensive care interventions. Improvement of all measures to decrease perinatal mortality in the community is recommended so as to reduce the incidence of premature deliveries, and to improve survival of LBW and VLBW babies. There should be a system of hitch-free referral between level ll hospitals and level lll regional centers.