Catov, J. M., Lee, M., Roberts, J. M., Xu, J., & Simhan, H. N., “Race Disparities and Decreasing Birth Weight: Are All Babies Getting Smaller?,” American Journal of Epidemiology, 2016, 183(1), 15-23. DOI: 10.1093/aje/kwv194.
The mean infant birth weight in the United States increased for decades, but it might now be decreasing. Given race disparities in fetal growth, we explored race-specific trends in birth weight at Magee-Womens Hospital, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from 1997 to 2011. Among singleton births delivered at 37-41 weeks (n = 70,607), we evaluated the proportions who were small for gestational age and large for gestational age and changes in mean birth weights over time. Results were stratified by maternal race/ethnicity. Since 1997, the number of infants born small for their gestational ages increased (8.7%-9.9%), whereas the number born large for their gestational ages decreased (8.9%-7.7%). After adjustment for gestational week at birth, maternal characteristics, and pregnancy conditions, birth weight decreased by 2.20 g per year (P < 0.0001). Decreases were greater for spontaneous births. Reductions were significantly greater in infants born to African-American women than in those born to white women (-3.78 vs. -1.88 per year; P for interaction = 0.010). Quantile regression models indicated that birth weight decreased across the entire distribution, but reductions among infants born to African-American women were limited to those in the upper quartile after accounting for maternal factors. Limiting the analysis to low-risk women eliminated birth weight reductions. Birth weight has decreased in recent years, and reductions were greater in infants born to African-American women. These trends might be explained by accumulation of risk factors such as hypertension and prepregnancy obesity that disproportionately affect African-American women. Our results raise the possibility of worsening race disparities in fetal growth. FULL TEXT