Morbidity and weight gain patterns amongst babies with fetal malnutrition in Port Harcourt, Nigeria

Peace Opara, Appollus Josiah, Alice Nte


Background: Low birth weight babies including those with fetal malnutrition (FM) reportedly have higher rates of perinatal morbidities, persistence of poor growth and poor cognitive development. Follow up of babies with FM is important to allow for early intervention where necessary. The paper aimed to determine morbidities and weight gain patterns in term newborns with FM in the first 6 weeks of life.

Materials and methods: This was a cross-sectional study of morbidities and weight gain patterns in term babies with FM, delivered at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH). Infants were recruited consecutively in the labor wards shortly after birth. The CANSCORE was used to determine nutritional status within the first 24 hours of life. Weights were obtained at birth and at 6 weeks. Data were analyzed using the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS®) Version-17, Spearman’s Chi-Square test (χ2-test) or the Fisher’s Exact Test (FET) of significance were used to determine statistical significance.

Results: The results from the research revealed that there was a statistically significant relationship between FM and occurrence of birth asphyxia (FET-derived p-value = 0.02). There was no difference in occurrence of morbidities during the 6 week follow up period between babies with and without FM (FET-derived p-value = 0.61). At 6 weeks, the mean weight gain of babies with and without FM was 1,746.87 ± 510.0 g and 1,492.67 ± 649.6 g, respectively (t = 2.46; p = 0.02). Despite higher mean weight gain at 6 weeks, the babies with FM had lower mean weight than their counterparts without FM.

Conclusion: Birth asphyxia occurred more commonly in babies with FM. There was persistence of low weight at the chronological age of 6 weeks despite higher mean weight gain in babies with FM. Therefore, babies with FM need follow up to detect and treat problems early.


fetal malnutrition; morbidities; weight gain pattern

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