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Open Access Research article

Influence of maternal and social factors as predictors of low birth weight in Italy

Carmelo GA Nobile, Gianluca Raffaele, Carlo Altomare and Maria Pavia*

Author Affiliations

Chair of Hygiene, Medical School, University of Catanzaro "Magna Græcia"of Catanzaro (Italy), Via Tommaso Campanella, 115 88100 Catanzaro, Italy

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:192  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-192

Published: 3 August 2007



The purpose of this study is to provide insight into the determinants of low birth weight (LBW) in Italy.


The study was carried out in a non-teaching hospital in Catanzaro (Italy). All LBW and very LBW newborns (200) were included in the study and a random sample of 400 newborns weighing ≥ 2500 g was selected. Data were collected from the delivery certificates during one year. Smoking activity of mother and familiar and/or social support during pregnancy was gathered through telephone interviews.


Overall annual LBW rate was 11.8%. Among LBW newborn there were 125 preterm and 75 term. Younger mothers, those who smoked during pregnancy, and had fewer prenatal care visits were more likely to deliver a LBW child; moreover, preterm newborns, delivered by caesarean section, and twin or multiple birth were significantly more likely to have a LBW. The comparison of very LBW (<1500 g) to LBW newborns showed that a very LBW was significantly more likely in newborns delivered by less educated mothers, those who work outside the home, live in smaller towns, and had less echographies; moreover, as expected, very LBW newborns were more likely to be preterm.


Several modifiable factors affect the risk of LBW, even when universal access to health care is freely available, but socio-economic status appears to correlate only to very LBW.