New study shows low birth weights in South Carolina babies

While low birth weights aren't necessarily always a problem, it can lead to certain health risks.
While low birth weights aren't necessarily always a problem, it can lead to certain health risks.(WMBF News)
Published: Jul. 12, 2023 at 5:27 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - For most parents, a baby’s journey into the world includes precious memories.

But a new study shows that for some babies, that journey might have a few more bumps depending on an important factor: their weight.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation says one in ten babies is born with a low birth weight in South Carolina. While a low birth weight isn’t always concerning, it can present some health risks.

“I did nothing wrong. My body failed me and my children,” said Ashley Taylor.

Taylor is a mom of two. Both of her children were born at low birth weights.

She said the days, weeks, months and years spent in hospitals and at doctors’ appointments were difficult.

“Those were the hardest years of my life,” said Taylor.

Taylor’s son, Cole, was born at 35 weeks and weighed 3 pounds 8 ounces. Her daughter, Marley, was born at 24 weeks and weighed just 14 ounces. The normal weight for a 24-week baby is somewhere just over a pound.

Dr. Mike Maurer, a neonatologist at Grand Strand Medical Center said while it’s common to see preemies at low birth weights for their time in gestation, he also sees full-term babies at a low birth weight too.

“We see the occasional kid who is at terms and is growth restricted as well,” said Maurer. “There are a variety of reasons for that. They just kind of run the gamut of things.”

Taylor quickly learned how low birth weights can affect babies, including her own.

“He [Cole] came home from the NICU in about 6 weeks. For the first 3 years of his life, we stayed pretty much at the hospital. He was always sick. He always had issues going on with his breathing, with his eating. He had a feeding tube until he was eight years old,” she said. “She [Marley] had what’s called NEC, which is the necrotizing of the intestines. Her intestines were perforated and they were leaking out into her body cavity. So they had to put a drain in her side.”

Maurer said low birth weight children could face health issues later in life as well.

“Low birth weight at term includes paradoxically, obesity. So they’re more likely to be obese adults than babies born at a weight appropriate for their gestational age,” he said. “Type 2 diabetes is another risk factor for them. Developmental delays as well. That can be cognitive or motor delays.”

But Maurer added there are preventative measures that expectant mothers can take. The biggest being not to smoke during pregnancy.

“Maternal obesity is another one that has an effect on that,” he said. “Probably the next one, or one in the same milieu of being important for the baby, is just obtaining regular prenatal care.”

Although Taylor’s children lead relatively normal lives now, she remembers blaming herself for her children’s birth-related health issues. She had this message for parents in the same situation.

“There is hope. There is light. I promise you this is going to be a distant memory,” she said. “You’re going to wish you had journaled about it or taken more pictures.”

Both Maurer and Taylor encourage mothers not to blame themselves if their child faces health issues due to low birth weight.

Maurer said he also sees children with a low birth weight that have no health issues. He said each situation is unique.

Stay with WMBF News for updates.