Birth Weight

Figure 15: Birth Weight as a Percentage of Total Live Births for First Nations in Alberta (200-2003)

Figure 15 shows that the majority of First Nations babies born in Alberta have a healthy weight (76 per cent). Cause for concern, however, is the fact that 18 per cent of First Nations babies born in Alberta have a high birth weight16.

Low birth weight may be the result of a pre-term birth or restricted foetal (intrauterine) growth. It has been shown that low birth weight due to restricted foetal growth can lead to higher incidence of adult
diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease17.

High birth weight has been identified as a risk factor for a number of immediate and long-term health concerns including:

Figure 16: National Low and High Birth Weights as a Percentage of Total Live Births (2000)
  • Complications with childbirth such as shoulder dystocia and increased rate of caesarean delivery
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity through childhood and adulthood
  • Maternal obesity
  • Prolonged gestation
  • Maternal diabetes (including gestational, chemical or insulin dependent)[18]

Figure 16 highlights that significant differences exist in the proportion of low and high birth weights between Canadian and First Nations babies. First Nations babies are more likely to have a high birth weight than their Canadian counterparts.

Life expectancy at birth and infant mortality rates for First Nations have improved significantly in the last few decades but are still trailing those of the Canadian population.

Injury is the leading cause of death for First Nations.

16Data for this chart is compiled using both the Indian Registry and Vital Statistics. 223 births (9 per cent) have an unknown birth weight, this is most likely due to the fact that the births are identified in the Indian Registry but not in Alberta’s Vital Statistics as these babies were likely born outside the province.

17The Well-Being of Canada’s Young Children, Government of Canada Report 2008

18Ibid