SCOTLAND

Low birthweight babies

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information:

Key points

  • At 7% of live births, the proportion of babies born with a low birthweight is similar to a decade ago.
  • Babies born of parents who live in areas of high deprivation are more likely to be of low birthweight compared to babies born of parents who live in areas of average and low deprivation: 8% compared to 5-6%.
  • The proportion of babies who are of low birthweight is similar across most of Scotland.
  • The proportion of babies who are of low birthweight in Scotland is similar to the Great Britain average.

Definitions and data sources

The first graph shows the proportion of live births who are defined as having a low birth weight, i.e. less than 2.5 kilograms (5.5lbs).  The data is shown separately for full-term and premature babies, where premature babies are those born 36 or less after conception.

The data is for all live births, both premature and full-term and for singleton and multiple births.  It excludes still-births, home births and births at non-NHS hospitals.

The graph was chosen since low birthweight babies face a range of future health problems both immediate and longer-term: poor health in the first four weeks of life, a higher risk of death before the age of two and delayed physical and intellectual development in early childhood and adolescence among them.

The second graph shows, for the latest year, the proportion of low birthweight babies according to the deprivation category of their parents’ area of residence.  The data is for live births only and omits those cases where the deprivation category was not known.

The graph was chosen because the socio-economic pattern to the risk of low birthweight babies, indicates the way in which the historical disadvantage of children’s parents can be transmitted from the very outset.

The third graph shows how the proportion of live births that are of a low birthweight varies by NHS Health Board.  To improve its statistical reliability, the data is the average for the latest three years.

The data source for the first three graphs is ISD Scotland.

The fourth graph shows how the proportion of babies who are of low birthweight in Scotland compares with the rest of Great Britain.

The data sources for the fourth graph are the ONS vital statistics (for England and Wales) and ISD Scotland (for Scotland).  To improve its statistical reliability, the data is the average for the latest three years.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: high.  The data is sourced from administrative data and represents a count of births.  Adequacy for the second graph can be regarded as medium: relative levels of deprivation in areas can change over time and the measure used may not adequately reflect such changes; the graph measures area deprivation, not deprivation of the parents themselves; and not everyone living in an area identified as deprived is necessarily deprived themselves and vice versa.