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Sep, 29 2017

​Low birth weight and premature births, the top cause of death for new born babies in India

Poor nutrition of mothers, under-age motherhood and inadequate pre-natal care are the major causes for underweight or premature babies

Low birth weight and premature births, the top cause of death for new born babies in India, has steadily risen from 12.3 per 1,000 live births in 2000 to 14.3 by 2015. With other major causes of neonatal mortality falling significantly, low birth weight and prematurity accounted for about 55% of all neonatal deaths in 2015 compared to around a quarter in 2000, according to a Lancet study.

Poor nutrition of mothers, under-age motherhood and inadequate pre-natal care are the major causes for underweight or premature babies.

However, prematurity or low birth weight mortality rates rose in rural areas from 13.2 per 1,000 live births in 2000 to 17 in 2015 and in poorer states from 11.3 to 17.8. They fell in urban areas and richer states, but that wasn’t enough to offset the damage.

In a clear indication of the effect of maternal malnutrition, the study found that most of the increase in prematurity or low birth weight deaths was happening in babies born at full term but with low birth weight and not in premature babies.

The study was based on data gathered as a part of the ongoing Million Death Study (MDS), in which the Registrar General of India’s surveyors do verbal autopsies of the deaths that occurred after the previous census round. A verbal autopsy involves surveyors asking detailed questions on the circumstances in which a death took place.

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