Are premature or low birth weight babies more at risk for complications?

Updated on: Jan 29, 2016

Yes. Premature or low birth weight babies are at greater risk of complications and neonatal or infant mortality than babies born at term or of healthy weight. Thanks to nutritional interventions with mothers during pregnancy at the Montreal Diet Dispensary, the incidence of preterm and low birthweight is reduced.


Prematurity is defined as a gestational age at birth that does not reach 37 full weeks. In Canada, as well as in other industrialized countries, prematurity is the leading cause of infant and child mortality.

The risks are many: greater incidence of cerebral palsy, acute respiratory failure, gastrointestinal complications and poorly-developed immune systems. In addition, long-term mobility problems are more often seen in premature infants.

The table below compares the incidence rate of premature births of the Dispensary vs the rates observed elsewhere in Canada.

Premature births Percentage
Canada (2011)* 7,9 %
Quebec (2012)* 7,1 %
Dispensary (2013) 4,0 %


A baby has a low birth weight (LBW) when born at less than 2500 g (5½ pounds). These babies have a higher risk of respiratory illness, stunted growth and development problems during childhood, as well as difficulties in cognitive development and language. Moreover, as adults, they are more likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure and type II diabetes. It also seems that babies with small birth weight are susceptible to mental health problems, crime and drug abuse.

The table below compares the different percentages of LBW in the population of Canada and Quebec, with the percentage in the population followed at the Dispensary, which is a low-income population.

Low birth weight (LBW) Percentage
Canada (2013)** 6,0%
Quebec (2013)** 5,7%
Dispensary (2014) 4,0%
In low income populations*** ~10%

** Statistics Canada

*** Ministry of Health and Social Services


It is important to reduce the rate of prematurity and low birth weight, since they can affect the health of many infants.

The mission of the Dispensary is “to provide a nutritional and social support for pregnant women in need to equip and help them deliver healthy babies.”

The clients of the Dispensary have more chances than average women of having a full term baby and having a good birth weight, despite their risk factors. To learn about the risk factors for low birth weight or prematurity, click here. These striking results are possible thanks to a personalized approach developed at the Dispensary, the Higgins © method, and an unparalleled support for the mothers. The profile of the Dispensary’s clients risk factors are explained in each of its annual reports.


Canadian Institute for Health Information. (2012). Highlights of 2010-2011 selected indicators describing the birthing process in Canada.

Colin C, Desrosiers H. (1989). Naître égaux et en santé - Avis sur la grossesse en milieux défavorisés. Ministère de la santé et des services sociaux.

Dispensaire Diététique de Montréal. (2013-2014). 134e rapport annuel.

Emploi et développement social Canada. (2015). Indicateurs de mieux-être au Canada : Santé – faible poids à la naissance.

Institut canadien d’information sur la santé. (2009). Nés trop vite et trop petits : Étude sur les bébés de faible poids au Canada.

Institute of health economics. (2008). Alberta, Canada. Determinants and prevention of low birth weight: a synopsis of the evidence. Alberta : Institute of health economics.

Statistique Canada. (2013). Profil de la santé, décembre 2013.



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