Pre-Term LBW or VLBW

LBW (Low Birth Weight) or VLBW (Very Low Birth Weight) is a term used to describe babies who are born weighing less than 1.5 kg.


The main cause of a baby having VLBW is being born too early. This is called preterm or premature birth. Premature means a baby is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Very-low- birth-weight babies are often born before 30 weeks of pregnancy. A premature baby has less time in the mother’s uterus to grow and gain weight.

Another cause of very low birth weight is when a baby does not grow well during pregnancy. This is called intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). It may happen because of problems with the placenta, the mother's health, or birth defects.


During pregnancy, the size of your baby is estimated in different ways. Your steady weight gain is one way of checking on the baby’s growth.

Another way is to measure the top of your uterus from the pubic bone (fundal height). The number of centimeters measured is usually the same or close to the number of weeks of pregnancy. If the fundal height measurement is low for the number of weeks you are pregnant, it may mean that your baby is not growing well.

Other ways to check the baby’s growth are:

  1. Using ultrasound to estimate the baby’s growth and development. Your healthcare provider can use measurements of your baby's head, belly, and upper leg bone, to estimate his or her weight

  2. Comparing your baby’s estimated birth weight with his or her gestational age. The provider may use a formula to figure out your baby’s body mass.


Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. Babies with VLBW may need:

  1. Care in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)

  2. Temperature-controlled beds

  3. Special feedings, sometimes with a tube into the stomach if the baby can’t suck

  4. Other treatments for complications