Regional differences in low birth weight in Spain: Biological, demographic and socioeconomic variables

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Cambridge Univ. Press
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The geographic and demographic dimensions of Spain, in terms of surface and number of inhabitants, and its heterogeneous socioeconomic development offer an adequate opportunity to study the provincial differences in birth weight from 1996 to 2010, focusing on possible factors determining the relative frequency of low birth weight. The study analysed geographic differences with regard to biological, demographic and socioeconomic factors that interfere with the female reproductive pattern. The variables considered here were: birth order, proportion of premature deliveries, mother's age, multiparity, mother's country of origin and professional qualifications. Two periods (1996–2000 and 2006–2010) were compared by means of principal components analysis. An increase in the relative frequency of deliveries weighing less than 2500 g occurred in most of the 52 geographic units studied, differences being significant in 42. Only in five cases was there a non-significant reduction in the proportion of low weight births. The first component after principal component analysis indicated that low birth weight was positively related to maternal age and to multiple deliveries, and negatively to the mother's low professional qualification. The second component related positively to the incidence of premature deliveries and to non-Spanish status and negatively in the case of primiparous mothers. The progressive increase in low birth weight incidence observed in Spain from 1996 onwards has occurred with considerable variation in each province. In part, this diversity can be attributed to the unequal reproductive patterns of immigrant mothers.