Healthcare Quarterly

Healthcare Quarterly 12(2) April 2009 : 140-140.doi:10.12927/hcq.2009.20677

Facts-at-a-Glance: The Burden of Small Babies


In 2006-2007, more than 54,000 babies across Canada were born preterm or small for their gestational age (SGA) - one in seven Canadian births.

Risk factors for pre-term babies:

  • Multiple-birth babies were nearly 17 times as likely to be born preterm as singleton babies.
  • Mothers who were diagnosed with hypertension and/or diabetes were up to six times more likely to deliver a preterm baby compared to women without those conditions.
  • In 2006-2007, mothers age 35 and older had a preterm birth rate of nearly 10%, compared to 8% for those age 20 to 34.
  • The preterm birth rate was also significantly higher for babies delivered by Caesarean section (13.3%) compared to induced (6.9%) or non-induced vaginal deliveries (6.5%).

Risk factors for small-for-gestational-age babies:

  • Mothers living in urban areas were 1.3 times or 30% more likely to have a small-for-gestational-age (SGA) birth, while mothers living in low-income neighbourhoods were also at increased risk (1.5 times or 50% more likely compared to mothers living in high-income neighbourhoods).
  • Women with hypertension were almost twice as likely to deliver an SGA baby. Diabetes, on the other hand, was not shown to result in a higher rate of SGA births.

The lower the birth weight or gestational age of a newborn, the higher the hospital costs.

  • In 2005-2006, the average in-hospital cost for a low birth weight baby (less than 2,500 grams or five and a half pounds) was more than 11 times higher than for those weighing 2,500 grams or more ($12,354 compared to $1,084).
  • Average hospital costs were nine times higher for pre-term babies than for full-term babies ($9,233 versus $1,050). Among multiple-birth babies who were also preterm, the average cost was about seven times higher ($12,479 versus $1,871).
  • SGA babies had an average hospital cost less than twice that of a non-SGA baby $2,297 versus $1,407.

SOURCE: Canadian Institute for Health Information: Too Early, Too Small: A Profile of Small Babies Across Canada. < > .

CIHI has additional statistics on various childbirth indicators that can be easily accessed through QuickStats at Highlights from the 2007-2008 indicators (excluding Quebec) include the following:

Primary Caesarean section rates

  • In 2007-2008, Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island had the highest rate of primary Caesarean sections (or women having a C-section for the first time), with 22.8% and 22.6% of all live births delivered by primary C-section.
  • Manitoba and Saskatchewan had the lowest primary C-section rates, at 13.4% and 15.6%, respectively.

Epidural rate for vaginal deliveries

  • In 2007-2008, 58.2% of vaginal deliveries in Ontario and 51.3% of vaginal deliveries in Nova Scotia were preceded by an epidural, the highest among the provinces.
  • British Columbia and Prince Edward Island had the lowest epidural rates for vaginal delivery, at 29.4% and 33.5%, respectively.


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