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The primary cause of very low birth weight is premature birth (born before 37 weeks gestation). Very low birth weight babies are often born before 30 weeks of pregnancy. Being born early means a baby has less time in the mother's uterus to grow and gain weight. Much of a baby's weight is gained during the latter part of pregnancy.
Any baby born prematurely is more likely to be very small. However, there are other factors that can also contribute to the risk of very low birth weight. These include: