Protocol - Birth Weight - Birth Weight Abstracted from Medical Records

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Birth weight abstracted from medical charts or perinatal databases or as reported in vital records

Specific Instructions

Several overarching, critical issues for high-quality data collection of anthropometric measures that optimize the data in gene-environment etiologic research include: (1) the need for training (and retraining) of study staff in anthropometric data collection; (2) duplicate collection of measurements, especially under field conditions; (3) use of more than one person for proper collection of measurements where required; (4) accurate recording of the protocols and the measurement units of data collection; and (5) use of required and properly calibrated equipment.


For any measurement taken during pregnancy, maternal or fetal complication recorded, or measurement relating to a pregnancy outcome at delivery, such as maternal weight, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, preterm delivery, or birth weight, the Working Group strongly advises collecting and recording a measure of gestational age at diagnosis and/or delivery. This entails recording the following from the medical records: (1) the gestational age in weeks at which the measurement or diagnosis was made, or the gestational age at delivery; (2) the type of gestational age (e.g., menstrual, conception, embryonic), although "gestational age" technically denotes menstrual age only; and (3) the source of the gestational age estimate, such as the recalled date of the mother’s last normal menstrual period (LMP), date of embryo transfer, fetal biometry from a first or second trimester ultrasound, fundal height, or neonatal physical examination. If linking with electronic vital records, care should be taken to research the history and definition of gestational age before use because criteria are likely to have evolved over time, and gestational ages estimated from different sources can significantly affect incidence and prevalence rates of important prenatal and perinatal categorizations, such as preterm delivery and small (SGA) and large for gestational age (LGA). Alternatively, depending on the source, the components for calculating gestational age could be recorded for estimating gestational age later, if necessary, although a clinician’s estimate of gestational age from a medical chart or vital records is preferred.

The presumed normal or optimal length of gestation, from the LMP date to the estimated date of delivery (EDD; sometimes denoted as estimated date of confinement, EDC), is 280 days (40 weeks) and 266 days from date of conception. Gestational age is generally recorded in medical charts in completed weeks; for example, a gestational age of 36 weeks represents the interval of 36 weeks, 0 days (written 36+0) to 36 weeks, 6 days (36+6). A pregnancy delivered before 37 completed weeks is considered preterm ("too early") and after 42 completed weeks is considered post-term ("too late"). By medical history, clinicians will first date a pregnancy using Naegele’s rule, which is done by calculating the EDD by counting back 3 months from the LMP and adding 7 days. This rule assumes that the gravida has a 28-day menstrual cycle with fertilization occurring on day 14. However, if the LMP is unknown, uncertain, or inconsistent with maternal symptoms, fetal size, and/or maturation, gestational age may be estimated by imaging (obstetric ultrasound) in the first trimester or up to 20 weeks. Afterward, the estimation may be by maternal examination, measurement, or examination of the fetus by ultrasound, or a physical examination of the neonate. Because there is greater variation in fetal size and timing of maturation as gestation progresses, EDD and gestational age estimates made early in gestation (first trimester) are more reliable and preferred.

Conventional indices derived using birth weight, in the absence of information on gestational age at delivery, include low birth weight (LBW; fewer than 2,500 g), very low birth weight (VLBW; fewer than 1,500 g), extremely low birth weight (ELBW; fewer than 1,000 g or fewer than 500 g), and high birth weight (HBW; greater than or equal to 4,000 g or greater than or equal to 4,500 g). About two-thirds of LBW infants are preterm by dates, and all term LBW infants are considered to be growth restricted. HBW can be termed "macrosomia," but that term is usually reserved to refer specifically to infants of diabetic mothers. If gestational age is available, the preferred indices are SGA, or small for dates, which is defined variously as less than 2nd, 3rd, 5th, or 10th percentile of a birth weight for gestational age reference, and LGA, or large for dates, which is defined as greater than or equal to 98th, 97th, 95th, or 90th percentile. The "normal" comparison within the percentile cutoffs is appropriate for gestational age. There is no universal birth weight for gestational age reference or standard for defining SGA and LGA, so the Working Group advises that each study operationally define these indices based on a thoughtful consideration of the available local, national, or international references. To index proportionality, neonates can be described as asymmetrically (wasted, less than -2 standard deviations weight for length or ponderal index) or symmetrically (stunted, less than -2 standard deviations length for gestational age, with a normal ponderal index) growth restricted.

For infants measured at birth, use the protocol titled Measured Weight at Birth (Global Network for Women’s and Children’s Health Research). For all others, the preferred method is abstraction from the birth certificate or medical record (protocol titled Measurement: Birth Weight Abstracted from Medical Records [National Vital Statistics System]). If this is not available, the self- or proxy-reported birth weight can be used (protocol titled Question: Proxy-Reported Birth Weight [National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey]). In all instances, the investigator should record the specific data source and specific protocol used.




(Abstracted from the medical record/vital record) Note: The investigator is cautioned to be sure to validate the record matching. Additionally, records matching could potentially be very time consuming and require high levels of investigator time (see Requirements Table). NEWBORN BIRTH WEIGHT (grams preferred, specify unit) ______________________ grams lb/oz

Personnel and Training Required

Personnel who are trained in performing medical records review

Equipment Needs


Requirement CategoryRequired
Major equipment No
Specialized training No
Specialized requirements for biospecimen collection No
Average time of greater than 15 minutes in an unaffected individual No
Mode of Administration

Medical record abstraction


Infant, Toddler, Child, Adolescent, Adult, Senior


All ages, although availability of records may vary widely

Selection Rationale

These protocols use methods that would be encountered in most research settings. These protocols encompass different periods when the measurement could be collected. The studies from which these protocols are derived also provide valid national comparison data. Ascertainment of birth weight is a high priority when feasible to obtain given the significant relationships that have been shown between birth weight and the risk of selected, important cardiovascular-renal diseases.


Chinese, English

Logical Observation Identifiers Names and Codes (LOINC) PhenX - birth weight protocol 62405-6 LOINC
Human Phenotype Ontology Abnormality of body weight HP:0004323 HPO
caDSR Form PhenX PX020201 - Birth Weight Abstracted From Medical Records 5791892 caDSR Form
Derived Variables

Ponderal index (g/cm3, neonates and infants), weight for length (birth to 36 months), body mass index (kg/m2, 2 years to adults, but some references from birth), low birth weight (fewer than 2,500 g), macrosomia or high birth weight (greater than or equal to 4,000 g), small for gestational age (defined variably but conventionally as less than the 10th percentile of birth weight for gestational age), appropriate for gestational age, large for gestational age (defined variably but conventionally as greater than or equal to the 90th percentile of birth weight for gestational age)

Process and Review

The Expert Review Panel #1 reviewed the measures in the Anthropometrics, Diabetes, Physical Activity and Physical Fitness, and Nutrition and Dietary Supplements domains.

Guidance from the ERP includes:

• Revised descriptions of measure

Back-compatible: no changes to Data Dictionary

Previous version in Toolkit archive (link)

Protocol Name from Source

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Vital Statistics System Birth Certificate Section, 2005-2006


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. (2005-2006). National Vital Statistics System Birth Certificate Section. Hyattsville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

General References

Allen, M. C. (2005). Assessment of gestational age and neuromaturation. Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Research Review, 11(1), 21-33.

Hall, E. S., Folger, A. T., Kelly, E. A., & Kamath-Rayne, B. D. (2014). Evaluation of gestational age estimate method on the calculation of preterm birth rates. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 18(3), 755-762.

Wier, M. L., Pearl, M., & Kharrazi, M. (2007). Gestational age estimation on United States livebirth certificates: A historical overview. Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, 21(Suppl. 2), 4-12.

Protocol ID


Export Variables
Variable Name Variable IDVariable DescriptiondbGaP Mapping
PX020201010100 Newborn birth weight abstracted from the more
medical record/vital record. show less
PX020201010300 Newborn birth weight abstracted from the more
medical record/vital record. show less
PX020201010200 Newborn birth weight abstracted from the more
medical record/vital record. show less
Variable Mapping
Measure Name

Birth Weight

Release Date

March 27, 2009


Birth weight (measured, recalled, or vital records/chart abstraction) is the weight of the infant in grams or pounds and ounces at birth. Birth weight is directly related to gestational age.


Birth weight is associated not only with the health status of the infant/child, but has also been linked to later-life conditions such as obesity, hypertension, kidney disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions. Birth weight is influenced by genetics, maternal health, prenatal health, pregnancy complications, environmental factors, multiple-gestation births, and other factors. Low birth (LBW) poses significant health risks. Birth weights, collected as part of a comprehensive reproductive history, may also be linked to later-life conditions in the mother. For example, large infant size may indicate undiagnosed gestational diabetes and an increased risk for adult-onset diabetes in the mother.


Anthropometrics, gestational age, ponderal index, NHANES

Measure Protocols
Protocol ID Protocol Name
20201 Birth Weight - Birth Weight Abstracted from Medical Records
20202 Birth Weight - Measured Weight at Birth
20203 Birth Weight - Proxy Reported Birth Weight

Huser, V. and L. Amos (2018) Analyzing Real-World Use of Research Common Data Elements. AMIA Annu Symp Proc. 2018 December;

Chen, L. W., et al. (2016) Associations of Maternal Dietary Patterns during Pregnancy with Offspring Adiposity from Birth Until 54 Months of Age. Nutrients. 2016 December; 9(1): E2. doi: 10.3390/nu9010002

Ong, Y. L., et al. (2016) The association of maternal vitamin D status with infant birth outcomes, postnatal growth and adiposity in the first 2 years of life in a multi-ethnic Asian population: the Growing Up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes (GUSTO) cohort study. Br J Nutr. 2016 August; 116(4): 621-31. doi: 10.1017/S0007114516000623