The distribution of birth weights and their determinants in the republic of Cyprus for the period of 1990-2002
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Many factors including maternal, pregnancy-specific, physiological, genetic, pathological, and environmental can influence foetal weight. Although they have been well studied in most EU countries, no such studies are specifically available on Cyprus. This study was based on the raw data, concerning births and birth-weights for the period of 1990-2002, which we managed to obtain from the database of the "Centre for Preventive Paediatrics", a non-governmental foundation on Cyprus. This first-ever study on the distribution of birth-weights in the Republic of Cyprus shows a downward trend in the birth-weights in the early 1990s (from the mean 3238 grams in 1991 to 3152 in 2002). The study also confirmed significant weight decrements for babies born prematurely, as a result of multifoetal pregnancies or to smoking mothers (mean decrement of 886 grams in the period of 1990-98 and 821 grams in the period of 1998-2002). Most importantly, this study shows a significant increase in the proportion of caesarean sections, which in 2002 reached almost four times the maximum number of caesarean sections recommended by the WHO (increase from 18 % in 1990 to 39 % in 2002). Furthermore, babies born by caesarean section were found to be significantly lighter than those born by natural delivery (by a mean of 147 grams for 1990-1996 and 212 grams for 1998-2002). An indirect result of this study also suggests that the overall proportion of Cypriot women who smoke, as reflected by the pregnant women, is much higher than previously thought. This study highlights the need for further investigations into these determinants of birth-weight in the Cypriot population.