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Risk factors for low birth weight are strongly influenced by the social environment
Birth weight, like growth, is determined by the complex interplay of genetic and environmental factors. The proportional contribution of these influences is unclear. However, birth weight varies within genetically similar populations,1–3 suggesting that environmental factors play a significant role. Secular changes in birth weight4 also suggest an environmental influence. Birth weight also shows a reverse social gradient such that increasing disadvantage is associated with decreasing birth weight.1–3
ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS AFFECTING BIRTH WEIGHT
Environmental factors with a known association with birth weight are nutrition, smoking, maternal ill health, and genital infection. The association of other factors such as stress5 and exposure to some types of work during pregnancy6 remains unproven. Other risk factors for low birth weight such as maternal age, although not themselves environmental factors, are strongly influenced by …
This article is reproduced in full with permission of Arch Dis Child Fetal Neonatal Ed 2002; 86:F6–7.