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Prevalence of low birth weight and its association with maternal body weight status in selected countries in Africa: a cross-sectional study
  1. Zhifei He1,
  2. Ghose Bishwajit2,
  3. Sanni Yaya2,
  4. Zhaohui Cheng3,
  5. Dongsheng Zou1,
  6. Yan Zhou1
  1. 1 School of Politics and Public Administration, Southwest University of Political Science and Law, Chongqing, China
  2. 2 School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3 Health Information Center, Chongqing, China
  1. Correspondence to Dr Yan Zhou; mszhouyan023{at}


Objectives The present study aimed to estimate the prevalence of low birth weight (LBW), and to investigate the association between maternal body weight measured in terms of body mass index (BMI) and birth weight in selected countries in Africa.

Setting Urban and rural household in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal and Uganda.

Participants Mothers (n=11 418) aged between 15 and 49 years with a history of childbirth in the last 5 years.

Results The prevalence of LBW in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal and Uganda was, respectively, 13.4%, 10.2%, 12.1%, 15.7% and 10%. Compared with women who are of normal weight, underweight mothers had a higher likelihood of giving birth to LBW babies in all countries except Ghana. However, the association between maternal BMI and birth weight was found to be statistically significant for Senegal only (OR=1.961 (95% CI 1.259 to 3.055)).

Conclusion Underweight mothers in Senegal share a greater risk of having LBW babies compared with their normal-weight counterparts. Programmes targeting to address infant mortality should focus on promoting nutritional status among women of childbearing age. Longitudinal studies are required to better elucidate the causal nature of the relationship between maternal underweight and LBW.

  • body mass index
  • low birth weight
  • maternal underweight
  • neonatal mortality
  • Sub-saharan Africa

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  • Contributors ZH, GB and YZ conceptualised the study and data collection. ZH, GB, SY and YZ were responsible for data management and analysis. ZH and GB contributed to initial drafting and interpretation of the results. DZ and ZC were responsible for the language. All authors read the final manuscript and gave approval for publication.

  • Funding National Social Science Foundation (no 2013-GM-048).

  • Disclaimer The funding body had no involvement at any stage of the study.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval The protocol of the DHS surveys was approved by the Ethics Committee of ORC Macro. The study was based on analysis of anonymised secondary data available in the public domain of DHS; therefore, no additional approval was necessary. However, approval for the reuse of data was obtained by the authors from DHS.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Access to demographic and health survey data is managed and provided by MEASURE DHS following an online registration (

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