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UK gives birth to more babies with dangerously low birthweights than Turkmenistan, Albania and Cuba

More babies in the UK were born underweight than in Turkmenistan, Albania and Cuba, shocking research shows.

Around 56,000 British newborns weighed less than 5.5lbs in 2015, approximately seven per cent of all live births that year. 

The UK fell behind the likes of Albania, which saw 4.6 per cent of its babies born underweight, Cuba (5.3 per cent) and Turkmenistan (5.6 per cent).

The average newborn weighs about 8lbs and anything under 5.8lbs is considered underweight. Older mothers face a higher risk of having a smaller baby.

Low birthweight babies struggle to feed, gain weight, fight off infections and can develop breathing difficulties. 

More than 20 million newborns from around the world weighed less than 5.5lbs in 2015, a global study looking into more than 200million births found

More than 20 million newborns from around the world weighed less than 5.5lbs in 2015, a global study looking into more than 200million births found

As they grow older, they are also known to face a greater risk of suffering problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

In developing countries, poor growth in the womb is one of the major causes of low birthweight. 

In Western nations, low birthweight is often associated with prematurity – a baby born earlier than 37 weeks gestation.  

The analysis was done by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UNICEF, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

They reviewed 281million births in almost 150 countries, sifting through national databases and surveys.

Lead author Dr Hannah Blencowe said if the current progress continues – a 1.2 per cent yearly decline – the world will fall well short of its WHO target.

She said: ‘To meet the global nutrition target of a 30 per cent reduction in low birthweight by 2025 will require more than doubling the pace of progress.

‘Despite clear commitments, our estimates indicate that national governments are doing too little to reduce low birthweight.   

‘We have seen very little change over 15 years, even in high-income settings where low birthweight is often due to prematurity as a result of high maternal age.’

WHAT ARE THE RISKS UNDERWEIGHT BABIES FACE? 

The average newborn weighs about 8lbs and anything under 5.8lbs is considered underweight.  

Low birthweight babies struggle to feed, gain weight, fight off infections and can develop breathing difficulties.

As they grow older, they are also known to face a greater risk of suffering problems such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

In developing countries, poor growth in the womb is one of the major causes of low birthweight. 

In Western nations, low birthweight is often associated with prematurity – a baby born earlier than 37 weeks gestation. 

Low birthweight is often due to prematurity as a result of high maternal age.

Smoking, medically unnecessary caesarean sections and fertility treatments can also all increase the risk of a baby being born with a low birthweight. 

Smoking, medically unnecessary caesarean sections and fertility treatments can also all increase the risk of a baby being born with a low birthweight. 

Dr Blencowe added: ‘These are the underlying issues that governments in high-income countries should be tackling.’ 

The proportion of women over 40 giving birth in England and Wales has trebled in the last 30 years, according to estimates.

The average age for a woman to have her first child in the UK is now 30. A staggering one in 25 of all UK births is now to a mother over the age of 40.

The analysis showed almost three-quarters of the underweight babies were born in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, where data is most limited. 

In Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, rates of babies being born underweight have plateaued since 2000. 

Overall, the UK has experienced a yearly decline of 0.3 per cent since 2000. But rates were on the rise in some high-income countries. 

The Czech Republic saw a yearly increase of two per cent, Ireland 1.3 per cent, Portugal 1.2 per cent and Spain 1.1 per cent since 2000.

Researchers found global underweight baby rates fell slightly from 17.5 per cent in 2000 (22.9million) to 14.6 per cent in 2015 (20.5million).  

Authors called for international action to ensure all babies are weighed at birth and to promote public health action to tackle the problem.

‘Every newborn must be weighed, yet worldwide, we don’t have a record for the birthweight of nearly one third of all newborns,’ says study co-author Julia Krasevec from UNICEF. 

‘We cannot help babies born with low birthweight without improving the coverage and accuracy of the data we collect. 

‘With better weighing devices and stronger data systems, we can capture the true birthweight of every baby, including those born at home, and provide better quality of care to these newborns and their mothers.’

More than 80 per cent of the world’s 2.5million newborns who die every year have a low birthweight.    

One of the lowest rates of underweight babies in 2015 was estimated in Sweden at just 2.4 per cent. 

This compared to the US (eight per cent), the UK (seven per cent), Australia (6.5 per cent) and New Zealand (5.7 per cent). 

Anna Kettley, of UNICEF, said: ‘The UK’s low birthweight rate has stagnated at seven per cent for more than a decade, highlighting the need to improve care for the one in seven babies born alive in the UK who require specialist neonatal care. 

‘This places the UK behind other countries such as Turkmenistan, China and Cuba, despite our world-class National Health System.’  

WHAT IS THE RATE OF BABIES BORN WITH A LOW BIRTHWEIGHT IN YOUR COUNTRY?
COUNTRY TOTAL LIVE BIRTHS (2015) NUMBER (2000)  RATE (2000) RANKING (2000)  NUMBER (2015)  RATE (2015) RANKING (2015) 
Sweden 118,500 4,100 4.5 4 2,900 2.4 1
Bosnia and Herzegovina 32,500 1,500 3.5 1 1,100 3.4 2
Finland 59,200 2,500 4.3 3 2,400 4.1 3
Estonia 14,100 600 4.3 3 600 4.3 4
Latvia 20,200 1,000 5.1 9 900 4.5 5
Lithuania 31,200 1,600 4.8 6 1,400 4.5 5
Norway 61,600 2,900 4.9 7 2,800 4.5 5
Serbia 93,800 5,600 4.7 5 4,300 4.5 5
Albania 34,800 2,500 4.9 7 1,600 4.6 6
Turkmenistan 144,400 5,800 5.4 11 7,100 4.9 7
China 17,121,600 940,600 5.8 22 846,900 5 8
Republic of Moldova 42,700 2,600 5.5 12 2,100 5 8
Belarus 114,300 4,500 5 8 5,800 5.1 9
Croatia 39,500 2,500 5.4 11 2,000 5.1 9
Cuba 125,500 8,900 6.1 25 6,600 5.3 10
Denmark 59,100 3,400 5.1 9 3,200 5.3 10
Uzbekistan 663,100 32,600 5.8 22 34,900 5.3 10
Kazakhstan 384,900 14,500 6.1 25 20,900 5.4 11
Mongolia 73,200 2,900 6.3 27 3,900 5.4 11
Kyrgyzstan 152,100 7,200 6.8 31 8,400 5.5 12
Tajikistan 250,700 11,600 6.2 26 14,100 5.6 13
Ukraine 479,200 21,900 5.4 11 27,000 5.6 13
New Zealand 61,600 3,700 6.6 30 3,500 5.7 14
Republic of Korea 449,000 21,900 3.8 2 25,900 5.8 15
Russian Federation 1,852,100 97,700 7.4 36 107,500 5.8 15
Ireland 68,600 2,800 4.9 7 4,000 5.9 16
Poland 365,300 21,500 5.7 21 21,700 5.9 16
Georgia 55,100 3,500 6.1 25 3,400 6.1 17
Slovenia 21,400 1,000 5.6 13 1,300 6.1 17
Chile 238,700 13,600 5.2 10 14,900 6.2 18
Netherlands 178,600 14,000 7.1 33 11,000 6.2 18
Canada 386,700 18,400 5.5 12 24,700 6.4 20
Australia 310,700 15,600 6.3 27 20,300 6.5 21
Austria 83,100 5,100 6.4 28 5,400 6.5 21
Switzerland 86,300 4,600 6 24 5,600 6.5 21
Germany 710,600 48,500 6.5 29 47,200 6.6 22
Italy 495,200 37,800 7.1 33 34,500 7 23
United Kingdom 805,500 50,700 7.3 35 56,000 7 23
Bolivia (Plurinational State of) 252,800 20,500 8 40 18,300 7.2 24
Algeria 949,300 47,100 7.7 38 68,800 7.3 25
Argentina 753,600 53,100 7.4 36 55,400 7.3 25
Azerbaijan 176,000 9,200 6.5 29 12,800 7.3 25
Belgium 129,000 8,200 7.2 34 9,400 7.3 25
Qatar 25,100 1,100 9.1 47 1,800 7.3 25
France 766,000 56,700 7.5 37 57,000 7.4 26
Costa Rica 69,800 5,300 7 32 5,200 7.5 27
Tunisia 210,000 13,800 8.2 41 15,700 7.5 27
Slovakia 57,000 3,700 6.8 31 4,300 7.6 28
Uruguay 48,500 4,200 7.7 38 3,700 7.6 28
Czech Republic 109,200 5,100 5.8 22 8,500 7.8 29
Israel 166,500 10,600 8.3 42 13,000 7.8 29
Mexico 2,329,800 200,600 8.2 41 183,300 7.9 30
Rwanda 370,100 31,800 10.3 54 29,100 7.9 30
United States 4,002,500 297,300 7.5 37 321,100 8 31
Paraguay 140,500 12,300 8.6 44 11,400 8.1 32
Romania 191,900 19,600 8.8 45 15,700 8.2 33
Viet Nam 1,581,800 130,100 9.2 48 129,900 8.2 33
Spain 414,900 28,200 7 32 34,300 8.3 34
Brazil 2,965,600 276,900 7.8 39 248,600 8.4 35
West Bank and Gaza Strip 150,100 10,600 8.8 45 12,600 8.4 35
Greece 94,200 10,000 9 46 8,200 8.7 36
Hungary 88,100 8,200 8.6 44 7,700 8.8 37
Portugal 82,900 8,400 7.4 36 7,400 8.9 38
Armenia 40,200 3,200 8.2 41 3,600 9 39
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 23,500 2,300 8.9 45 2,100 9.1 41
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 602,100 50,300 8.6 44 54,800 9.1 40
Lebanon 85,900 6,100 9.8 49 7,900 9.2 41
Peru 615,100 63,300 10.1 52 57,800 9.4 42
Japan 1,053,400 100,000 8.6 44 100,000 9.5 43
Bulgaria 66,900 5,600 8.6 44 6,400 9.6 44
Singapore 49,600 4,900 9.8 50 4,800 9.6 44
Kuwait 64,700 4,500 10.2 53 6,400 9.9 45
Colombia 746,400 89,000 10.5 55 74,300 10 46
Indonesia 4,991,100 515,900 11.2 60 497,600 10 46
Panama 78,800 7,500 10.6 56 7,900 10.1 47
El Salvador 118,100 16,000 11 58 12,200 10.3 48
Swaziland 38,600 3,800 11.1 59 4,000 10.3 48
Oman 80,900 6,100 10.9 57 8,500 10.5 49
Thailand 725,700 123,600 13.5 72 76,300 10.5 49
United Republic of Tanzania 2,086,700 179,400 12.4 67 219,000 10.5 49
Nicaragua 121,200 15,600 11.5 61 12,900 10.7 50
Democratic Republic of the Congo 3,268,600 269,600 12.4 67 354,400 10.8 51
Honduras 197,800 25,400 11.9 63 21,600 10.9 52
Guatemala 417,000 50,400 12.2 65 45,700 11 53
Ecuador 330,600 37,800 12 64 37,000 11.2 54
Dominican Republic 215,900 25,100 11.6 62 24,400 11.3 55
Malaysia 523,900 50,500 10 51 59,500 11.3 55
Turkey 1,294,100 176,800 12.9 69 147,500 11.4 56
Kenya 1,503,700 154,700 12.3 66 172,400 11.5 57
Congo 176,400 17,100 13.5 72 20,500 11.6 58
Zambia 620,300 63,600 13.5 72 71,900 11.6 58
Bhutan 14,500 2,200 13.8 73 1,700 11.7 59
Bahrain 21,500 1,300 8.5 43 2,600 11.9 60
Cameroon 842,100 83,100 13.1 71 100,700 12 61
Cambodia 367,600 52,400 15.4 78 44,600 12.1 62
Myanmar 944,200 156,800 13.9 74 116,200 12.3 63
Trinidad and Tobago 19,000 2,400 13.1 71 2,300 12.4 64
Zimbabwe 535,400 50,800 12.4 67 67,600 12.6 65
United Arab Emirates 91,600 6,900 13 70 11,600 12.7 66
Burkina Faso 715,600 85,100 15.8 79 94,000 13.1 67
Jordan 243,100 23,200 14.6 75 33,500 13.8 68
Mozambique 1,104,800 136,300 16.7 84 152,700 13.8 68
Gabon 57,600 6,300 15.3 77 8,200 14.2 69
Ghana 870,500 108,100 16.1 81 123,300 14.2 69
South Africa 1,176,000 166,900 15 76 167,100 14.2 69
Sierra Leone 258,200 36,800 17.2 85 37,200 14.4 70
Central African Republic 166,000 23,200 15.4 78 24,100 14.5 71
Malawi 653,300 86,700 17.2 85 94,500 14.5 71
Jamaica 48,300 8,700 15.3 77 7,000 14.6 72
Lesotho 61,300 9,100 15.4 78 8,900 14.6 72
Suriname 10,200 1,800 16 80 1,500 14.7 73
Burundi 437,200 47,600 17.4 86 66,200 15.1 74
Angola 1,181,000 146,700 18 89 180,200 15.3 75
Côte d’Ivoire 858,300 118,900 17.5 87 132,700 15.5 76
Namibia 71,700 9,800 16.5 83 11,100 15.5 76
Botswana 53,300 7,800 16.3 82 8,300 15.6 77
Guyana 15,900 3,200 16.3 82 2,500 15.6 77
Sri Lanka 323,000 56,900 16.3 82 51,300 15.9 78
Togo 256,300 34,900 17.8 88 41,200 16.1 79
Gambia 79,200 10,700 19.2 92 13,300 16.8 80
Benin 396,600 54,600 18.7 90 67,000 16.9 81
Madagascar 811,500 128,900 19.8 93 139,100 17.1 82
Mauritius 13,500 2,600 12.7 68 2,300 17.1 82
Lao People’s Democratic Republic 162,600 34,700 20.4 94 28,200 17.3 83
Morocco 708,800 120,300 18.8 91 122,500 17.3 83
Senegal 542,200 85,500 22 96 100,100 18.5 84
Philippines 2,385,800 498,100 21.5 95 480,700 20.1 85
Guinea-Bissau 65,800 13,000 25.3 97 13,900 21.1 86
Nepal 572,800 206,600 27.2 99 125,000 21.8 87
Comoros 25,900 5,300 25.9 98 6,100 23.7 88
Bangladesh 3,109,700 1,318,000 36.2 100 864,800 27.8 89

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