Health Status of Canadians 2016: Report of the Chief Public Health Officer - How healthy are we? - Low birth weight
How healthy are we?
Low birth weight
In 2013, 24,000 or just over 6% of newborns had a low birth weight.Footnote 1
Low birth weight is defined as a weight of less than 2,500 grams at birth. Being born at a low birth weight increase the risk for short- and long-term impacts on health.Footnote 2-6
Just over 18,000 or 5.6% of babies born in 2000 and just under 24,000 or 6.3% in 2013 had a low birth weight.Footnote 1
National data on low birth weight by income are not available. Data by income are available for pre-term birth and small-for-gestational-age. Pre-term birth and being small for gestational age are conditions associated with low birth weight.Footnote 2,Footnote 3
In 2006-2007, the proportion of preterm births and babies that were small for their gestational age was higher n low income neighbourhoods than in the highest income neighbourhood (see Figure 1)Footnote 3.
A higher proportion of babies with a low birth weight are born to mothers under the age of 20 years and between the ages of 35 to 49 years.Footnote 7
|Under the age of 20 years||6.8%||6.6%|
|20 to 34 years||5.3%||5.9%|
|35 to 49 years||6.6%||7.5%|
Data on low birth weight in Indigenous populations are not directly comparable to the data described above.
In First Nations on-reserve in 2008/2010, mothers aged 35 years or older were more likely to report giving birth to a baby with low birth weight than mothers in other age groups.Footnote 8
|Mother's age||% of live births|
|Under the age of 20 years||3.4%*|
|20 to 34 years||4.5%|
|Over the age of 35 years||8.4%Tableau 2 note de bas de page a|
In Inuit regions in 2004-2008, the proportion of low birth weights in Nunavut and Nunavik was higher than the overall Canadian population (which included all Inuit regions).Footnote 9
|Region||% of live births|
|Inuvialuit region (Northwest Territories)||3.9%|
|Nunavik (northern Quebec)||6.6%|
|Nunatsiavut (northern Labrador)||5.7%|
In 2011, the proportion of newborns with a low birth weight among G7 countries ranged from 6% to 10%. Canada had the lowest proportion of babies born at a low birth weight at 6% (see Figure 2)Footnote 10.
Notes to the reader
- Indigenous populations consist of First Nations, Métis and Inuit.
- Data on First Nations on -reserve are from the First Nations Regional Health Survey (2008/10). Prenatal health data, including information on birth weight, were obtained through the child survey. This survey was completed by the child's primary caregiver.Footnote 8
- G7 countries include seven of the world's industrialized countries, namely the United States, Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Canada, that form an informal discussion group and economic partnership.
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