Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Trends in gestational age and birth weight in Chile, 1991–2008. A descriptive epidemiological study

Paulina O Lopez123* and Gérard Bréart12

Author affiliations

1 INSERM, UMR S953, Recherche Epidémiologique en santé périnatale et santé des femmes et des enfants, Hôpital Tenon, Paris, F-75020, France

2 Université Pierre et Marie Curie, UMR S 953, Paris, F-75005, France

3 Universidad de Valparaíso Escuela de Obstetricia y Puericultura, Blas Cuevas 1028, Valparaíso, Chile

For all author emails, please log on.

Citation and License

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2012, 12:121  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-121

Published: 2 November 2012

Abstract

Background

Gestational age and birth weight are the principal determinants of newborn’s health status. Chile, a middle income country traditionally has public policies that promote maternal and child health. The availability of an exhaustive database of live births has allows us to monitor over time indicators of newborns health.

Methods

This descriptive epidemiological study included all live births in Chile, both singleton and multiple, from 1991 through 2008. Trends in gestational age affected the rate of prevalence (%) of preterm births (<37 weeks, including the categories < 32 and 32–36 weeks), term births (37–41) and postterm births (42 weeks or more). Trends in birth weight affected the prevalence of births < 1500 g, 1500–2499 g, 2500–3999 g, and 4000 g or more.

Results

Data from an exhaustive register of live births showed that the number of term and postterm births decreased and the number of multiple births increased significantly. Birth weights exceeding 4000 g did not vary.

Total preterm births rose from 5.0% to 6.6%, with increases of 28% for the singletons and 31% for multiple births (p for trend < 0.0001). Some categories increased even more: specifically preterm birth < 32 weeks increased 32.3% for singletons and 50.6% for multiple births (p for trend 0.0001).

The overall rate of low birth weight infants (<2500 g) increased from 4.6% to 5.3%. This variation was not statistically significant for singletons (p for trend = 0.06), but specific analyses exhibited an important increase in the category weighing <1500 g (42%) similar to that observed in multiple births (43%).

Conclusions

The gestational age and birth weight of live born child have significantly changed over the past two decades in Chile. Monitoring only overall rates of preterm births and low-birth-weight could provide restricted information of this important problem to public health. Monitoring them by specific categories provides a solid basis for planning interventions to reduce adverse perinatal outcomes.

This epidemiological information also showed the need to assess several factors that could contribute to explain these trends, as the demographics changes, medical interventions and the increasing probability of survival of extremely and very preterm child.