A study to determine factors contributing to a high incidence of low birth weight deliveries at the university teaching hospital.
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This study was undertaken to determine some of the factors contributing to a high incidence of low birth weight deliveries in the University Teaching Hospital. It was aimed at finding measures of preventing low birth weight and reducing its incidence. A review of relevant literature, showed that low socio economic status, low maternal education, poor quality of antenatal care services, non-contraceptive use, young maternal age and maternal morbidity are some of the factors contributing to low birth weight deliveries. A descriptive non-intervention research design was used. Review of records in the department of Obstetric and gynaecology in the University Teaching Hospital was done to obtain the required information about this study. Data collected from the records included mother's social demographic characteristics, past obstetric history, prevalence of pregnancy related diseases and data relating to fetal outcome. A self-devised interview schedule was used to obtain additional information from the fifty mothers of low birth weight infants delivered in the UTH Labour ward. The subjects were selected using convenient sampling method. Data analyzed showed that the incidence of low birth weight deliveries was 20.2%. The majority of the mothers (94%) were from the low income group as compared to 6% from the high income group, the low educated group (62%), and among mothers delivering at eight months of gestation or less (98%). The mean gravidity of the mothers was 2.5 with 44% being primparae. Of the mothers who delivered low birth weight babies, 10% gave history of previous abortion and 22% gave history of previous premature delivery. The commonest antenatal complications associated with low birth weight delivery were premature rupture of membranes before term (24%), pyrexia due to Malaria (16%), respiratory infections (14%), Hypertension disease (12%), and Antepartum Haemorrhage (8%). 26% of the mothers had no known antenatal complication. The study findings proved the study hypothesis that the lower the socio economic status of a woman the higher the chances of delivering to a low birth weight infant. The above results indicate that the highest number of low birth weight deliveries was among women from low socio economic status group and low education weight. It is assumed that level of mother's education and knowledge about practices of personal hygiene; sanitation, preventive measures, nutrition and the willingness to use health services are positively associated. Low socio economic status is also associated with stressors like poor living and working conditions, heavyworkload that is, hours spent on housekeeping activities, type of profession and number of working hours. Recommendations to improve the quality of antenatal care services have been made to relevant authorities like the Lusaka District Health Management Team, the Government and Non-Governmental Organizations. Some of the recommendations made include provision of laboratory services in all urban clinics for easy detection and treatment of infections in antenatal mothers.