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Open Access Research article

The effect of maternal anthropometric characteristics and social factors on gestational age and birth weight in Sudanese newborn infants

Eltahir M Elshibly1 and Gerd Schmalisch2*

Author Affiliations

1 Departments of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of Khartoum, Sudan

2 Clinic of Neonatology (Campus Charité Mitte), Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:244  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-244

Published: 18 July 2008



In Africa low birth weight (LBW) (<2500 g), is the strongest determinant of infant morbidity and mortality. The aim of this study was to quantify the effect of maternal anthropometry, education and socio-economic status on gestational age and birth weight.


In 1000 Sudanese mothers with singleton births, anthropometric measurements (weight, height, mid-arm circumference) and newborn birth weight were taken within 24 hours of delivery. Furthermore, maternal education and socio-economic status were recorded. The effect of these maternal variables on gestational age and birth weight was investigated by receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves and by multivariate logistic regression analysis.


Although maternal height was significantly correlated (p = 0.002) with gestational age, we did not find maternal characteristics of value in determining the risk for preterm birth. Birth order was the strongest determinant of birth weight compared to other maternal characteristics. The LBW rate of first born babies of 12.2% was nearly twice that of infants of multiparous mothers. Maternal age and all maternal anthropometric measurements were positively correlated (p < 0.001) with birth weight. A maternal height of <156 cm, a maternal weight of <66 kg, a maternal mid arm circumference of <27 cm and years of education of ≤ 8 years were found to increase the relative risk of LBW but this was statistically significant only in the case of maternal height. Maternal age and BMI had no statistically significant effect on determining the risk for LBW. The social class did not affect the birth weight, while the number of years of education was positively correlated with birth weight (p = 0.01). The LBW rate decreased from 9.2% for ≤ 8 years of education to 6.0% for >12 years of education.


Birth order and maternal height were found to be the most important maternal parameters which influences birth weight and the risk for LBW. The duration of maternal education and not social class was found to significantly affect the risk for LBW.