skip to the main content area of this page
Missoula Measures
(406) 258-3686
Missoula County Seal and image of areas around the City.

Missoula County - Missoula Measures

Department: Missoula Measures
Missoula County Home

Missoula Measures - Birth Weight


Why this topic?

Low birth weight infants (less than 5 lbs 8 oz) include those born too early, as well as those suffering from retarded intrauterine growth.  The long term cost to society for medical and social services for them is frequently high.  They begin their lives in neonatal intensive care units, and are at much higher risk for a host of developmental and physical problems through out their lives.  Birth weight also reflects socioeconomic status, race, maternal age, education, access to health care, and tobacco, alcohol, and drug use of the mother.

In the US, in 2012:

Prenatal care is a key factor in preventing preterm births and very low birth weight babies. At prenatal visits, the health of both mother and fetus can be checked. Because maternal nutrition and weight gain are linked with fetal weight gain and birth weight, eating a healthy diet and gaining the proper amount of weight in pregnancy are essential. Mothers should also avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and illicit drugs, which can contribute to poor fetal growth, among other complications.  Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford

Mothers under the age of 20, or those with little prenatal care are more apt to have low birth weight babies.  Smoking during pregnancy also contributes to low birth weight and premature births.  17% of pregnant Montana women smoke.  MT Maternal Child Health Needs Assessment, 2010


How are we doing?

The trend in low birth weight has been fluctuating for several years. In 1995 we hit 5.5%, which is very close to the Healthy People 2000 goal of 5%; for the last several years we have fluctuated between 6-7%.

Back to Top


graph rates of low birth weight Missoula, Montana, Healthy People 2020 goal

Source: Vital Statistics, MDPHHS.

Related data

Infant mortality is closely related to birth weight.

graph infant mortality rate Missoula and Montana 1995-2009 

Effects of substance abuse

Maternal smoking has been linked to low birth weight infants and is estimated to be associated with 20% to 30% of all LBW births in the U.S. Healthy People 2020. Heavy alcohol consumption during pregnancy is known to cause defects among infants and fetal alcohol syndrome, which is characterized by retardation of both physical growth and mental capabilities. Native Americans on reservations, as well as African-Americans have a disproportionate share of fetal alcohol syndrome-related problems: 33 and 7 times higher than whites, respectively.  Healthy People 2020

Prenatal care

Late entry (after the third month of pregnancy) into prenatal care can adversely affect the unborn child. Health care providers can positively affect conditions such as low pregnancy weight gain and/or low pre-pregnancy weight, as well as substance abuse (including alcohol consumption) or smoking during pregnancy.

graph percent of prenatal care by trimester, Missoula 1989-2009

Vital Statistics, MDPHHS

In the US in 2006, the percent of mothers receiving late or no prenatal care:

  • 3% of mothers age 20+
  • 6% of mothers age 15-19
  • 16% of mothers younger than 15
    Child Trends Data Bank

In the US, in 2003:

  • 8% of births to all ages were low birth weight babies.
  • 10% of babies born to 15-19 year olds were low birth weight.
  • 13% of babies born to mothers younger than 15 were low birth weight
    National Vital Statistics System

Healthy People 2020 Targets

  • Increase women who receive early and adequate prenatal care (first trimester) from 70.8% TO 77.9%
  • Reduce low birth weight from 8.2% of live births TO 7.8%
  • Increase percent of women who do not smoke during pregnancy from 89.6% TO 98.6%


Long-term effects

A 2011 Quality of Life research study "suggests that caring for a baby born with very low birth weight can have negative effects for maternal health, contributing to long-term or chronic stress for the mother." University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. W. Witt


Related Measures

Children, Youth, and Families.


Related Websites

Healthy People 2020 has extensive background on national public health status of this topic and many others.

Maternal & Child Health Bureau - Recent national trends.


public health logo


Back to Top

Site Navigation

Health Department Divisions

Categories of Missoula Measures

Search Health Sites