Background: Growth parameters at birth are important for clinical decision-making. In Sri Lanka, the data from the World Health Organization (WHO) Multicentre Growth Reference Study (MGRS) are used to interpret these measurements.
Materials and methods: A descriptive cross-sectional study was conducted between September and October 2010 in hospitals of Gampaha district, Sri Lanka. The weight, length and head circumference of all normal-term babies born in the Gampaha district during this period were measured within 8 h of birth using standard techniques. Measurements were taken by medical graduates trained and supervised by a consultant paediatrician. Socio-demographic data were obtained using an interviewer-administered questionnaire.
Results: Of the 2215 babies recruited, 1127 were males. The mean birth weight, mean length and mean head circumference at birth were 2.92 kg, 49.1 and 33.6 cm, respectively. Boys weighed and measured more than girls in all parameters, but the differences were not statistically significant. Growth parameters of babies included in this study deviated from that in the MGRS data. Mean values of MGRS data were between 75th and 90th centiles of this study population. Birth order, family income and maternal education were significantly (P < 0.01) associated with growth parameters. Contrary to common belief, growth parameters continued to increase progressively up to 41 weeks. Maternal age less than 20 years or more than 35 years was negatively associated with birth weight (P < 0.01).
Conclusions: Growth parameters of new-born babies deviated significantly from the values of the MGRS data. Growth characteristics of one population may not be applicable to another population due to variations in maternal, genetic and socio-economic factors. Using growth charts not applicable to a population will result in wrong interpretations.