Risk Factors Associated with Prematurity and Low Birth Weight

As previously described in a prior blog, prematurity and low birth weight are commonly found in 2-8% of live births in the United States.  There pregnant ladyare numerous neuropsychological and cognitive concerns that were reported in the previous blog.  There are many risk factors that parents need to be aware of that can be a contributing factor in premature delivery.

Medical risk factors that are associated with low birth weight are:

  • Previous preterm delivery
  • Family history of infertility
  • Multiple gestation
  • Placental abnormalities
  • Uterine abnormalities/infection
  • Preeclampsia

Cultural risk factors associated with low birth weight include:

  • Preterm birth more than 2x as common in African Americans
  • Higher in single mothers
  • Higher in low socioeconomic status families

Because of the possible long term concerns with low birth weight, it is important to be preemptive and knowledgeable about medical and cultural factors that might contribute to the condition.

Prematurity and Low Birth Weight

Prematurity and low birth weight are quite common and have been increasing in evidence. Research has indicated that infants that arepremature baby born with a low birth weight comprised approximately 8% of live births in the United States in 2005 (National Center for Health Statistics, 2006). Children that are born prematurely are on the rise and this is largely attributed to the advances in medicine and technology.

It is important to monitor several cognitive, academic and social-emotional factors of children that are born with a low birth weight and prematurity as these children are at risk for a wide variety of possible concerns.

More specifically, research has indicated that children that are born with low birth weight may be at risk for:

  • working memory and long term memory concerns
  • slower processing speed
  • attentional regulation
  • executive functioning
  • social/emotional concerns

Not every child with low birth weight or prematurity will exhibit the above concerns; however, it is always best to keep in mind that these concerns may be evident within the academic setting. A neuropsychological evaluation will help to establish a baseline of current functioning in order to monitor and track progress as well as to help determine if specific interventions and modification of the environment should be warranted.