Birth weight by gestational age and congenital malformations in Northern Ethiopia

Hayelom K. Mekonen*, Balkachew Nigatu, Wouter H. Lamers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Studies on birth weight and congenital anomalies in sub-Saharan regions are scarce. Methods: Data on child variables (gestational age, birth weight, sex, and congenital malformations) and maternal variables (gravidity, parity, antenatal care, previous abortions, maternal illness, age, medication, and malformation history) were collected for all neonates delivered at Ayder referral and Mekelle hospitals (Northern Ehthiopia) in a prospective study between 01-12-2011 and 01-05-2012. Results: The total number of deliveries was 1516. More female (54%) than male neonates were born. Birth weights were 700-1,000 grams between 26 and 36 weeks of pregnancy and then increased linearly to 3,500-4,000 grams at 40 weeks. Thirty-five and 54% of neonates were very-low and low birth weight, respectively, without sex difference. Very-low birth-weight prevalence was not affected by parity. Male and female neonates from parity-2 and parity-2-4 mothers, respectively, were least frequently under weight. Sixty percent of newborns to parity -3 mothers weighed less than 2,500 grams, without sex difference. The percentage male neonates dropped from similar to 50% in parity-1-3 mothers to similar to 20% in parity-6 mothers. Diagnosed congenital malformations (similar to 2%) were 2-fold more frequent in boys than girls. The commonest malformations were in the central nervous system (CNS; similar to 1.5% of newborns). Parity, low birth weight, gestational age less than 35 weeks, male sex, and lack of antenatal care were the most significant risk factors for congenital anomalies. Conclusion: The high prevalence of neonates with low birth weight and CNS anomalies in Northern Ethiopia was very high. The findings may reflect the harsh conditions in the past 2 decades and suggest environmental and/or nutritional causes. Male sex and parity affected the outcome of pregnancy negatively.
Original languageEnglish
Article number76
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2015


  • (Very) low birth weight
  • Sex difference
  • Parity
  • CNS malformations
  • Northern Ethiopia


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