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Maternal biomass smoke exposure and birth weight in Malawi: Analysis of data from the 2010 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey

Edith B. Milanzi
Ndifanji M. Namacha


Background: Use of biomass fuels has been shown to contribute to ill health and complications in pregnancy outcomes such as low birthweight, neonatal deaths and mortality in developing countries. However, there is insufficient evidence of this association in the Sub-Saharan Africa and the Malawian population. We, therefore, investigated effects of exposure to biomass fuels on reduced birth weight in the Malawian population.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional analysis using secondary data from the 2010 Malawi Demographic Health Survey with a total of 9124 respondents. Information on exposure to biomass fuels, birthweight, and size of child at birth as well as other relevant information on risk factors was obtained through a questionnaire. We used linear regression models for continuous birth weight outcome and logistic regression for the binary outcome. Models were systematically adjusted for relevant confounding factors.

Results: Use of high pollution fuels resulted in a 92 g (95% CI: -320.4; 136.4) reduction in mean birth weight compared to low pollution fuel use after adjustment for child, maternal as well as household characteristics. Full adjusted OR (95% CI) for risk of having size below average at birth was 1.29 (0.34; 4.48). Gender and birth order of child were the significant confounders factors in our adjusted models.

Conclusions: We observed reduced birth weight in children whose mothers used high pollution fuels suggesting a negative effect of maternal exposure to biomass fuels on birth weight of the child. However, this reduction was not statistically significant. More carefully designed studies need to be carried out to explore effects of biomass fuels on pregnancy outcomes and health outcomes in general.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1995-7262
print ISSN: 1995-7270