Full-term and normal-weight births by region in Los Angeles County: Recent progress and why it matters

Drawing on data from birth records to examine regional differences within L.A. County, this snapshot provides an overview of trends in term and birthweight as an indicator of healthy birth outcomes.

Among the key findings:

  • Good news: The percentage of infants born full-term and at a normal weight improved from 2007 to 2012 (latest birth record data available), countywide and in all regions of the county.
  • In 2012, just over half – 53.6% – of L.A. County births were full-term and normal weight, up from 47.7% in 2007.
  • These improvements affected all demographic subgroups, with figures increasing for all racial/ethnic groups, countywide. At the local level, increases were seen for most groups in most regions.
  • While full-term, normal-weight births were less common among mothers age 40+ compared to younger moms, women over 40 experienced the largest gains in full-term, normal-weight births of any demographic group in L.A. County during this period, from 39.9% to 48.8%. Improvements also were seen for births to teen mothers, from 51.3% to 56.6%.
  • Public health efforts to decrease preterm births and improve birth weights appear to be working. As new birth record data become available, they likely will show continued progress given that many new programs and policies have been implemented since 2012. It is critical to maintain these gains and continue prioritizing efforts to promote healthy births in L.A. County, especially now, at a time of change and uncertainty for the nation’s health care system and safety net programs.

Why is it important for infants to be born “full-term” (delivered in the 39th or 40th week) and at a “normal weight” (about 5.5-8.8 pounds)?

When babies reach full-term, their bodies have a chance to fully develop, including their respiratory, brain, and liver functioning. Preterm birth and low birthweight are leading causes of infant death in the U.S. In addition, infants born too early or too small are at increased risk of serious long-term health problems that can be very challenging for children and families and for society-at-large, resulting in billions of dollars spent each year on health care, special education, and other services.

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About the project

This snapshot is part of the ongoing “Connecting the Dots” series by the Children’s Data Network at the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Connecting the Dots snapshots bring together data and stories to provide new insights about the health and well-being of children and families in L.A. County. The series also highlights the great work happening throughout the county.

This is the fourth and final snapshot in the 2017 series, drawing on data from birth records to examine regional differences in births and healthy birth indicators across L.A. County. The four snapshots covered Birth Trends, Timely Prenatal Care, Perinatal Smoking, and Full-Term & Normal-Weight Births.

To learn more about this project and the Children’s Data Network, please visit http://www.datanetwork.org/snapshots/

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