Very Low Birth Weight and Perinatal Periods of Risk: Disparities in St. Louis

Pamela Xaverius, Saint Louis University
Joanne Salas, Saint Louis University
Deborah Kiel, Lindenwood University
Candice Woolfolk, Saint Louis University


Objective. Very low birth weight (VLBW) is a significant issue in St. Louis, Missouri. Our study evaluated risk factors associated with VLBW in this predominantly urban community. Methods. From 2000 to 2009, birth and fetal death certificates were evaluated (n=160, 189), and mortality rates were calculated for perinatal periods of risk. The Kitagawa method was used to explore fetoinfant mortality rates (FIMR) in terms of birth weight distribution and birthweight specific mortality. Multivariable logistic regression was used to assess the magnitude of association of selected risk factors with VLBW. Results. VLBW contributes to 50% of the excess FIMR in St. Louis City and County. The highest proportion of VLBW can be attributed to black maternal race (40.6%) in St. Louis City, inadequate prenatal care (19.8%), and gestational hypertension (12.0%) among black women. Medicaid was found to have a protective effect for VLBW among black women (population attributable risk (PAR) = −14.5). Discussion. Interventions targeting the health of women before and during conception may be most successful at reducing the disparities in VLBW in this population. Interventions geared towards smoking cessation and improvements in Medicaid and prenatal care access for black mothers and St. Louis City residents can greatly reduce VLBW rates.