High Altitude Continues to Reduce Birth Weights in Colorado

Beth A. Bailey, Meghan Donnelly, Kirk Bol, Lorna G. Moore, Colleen G. Julian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Objectives Colorado’s relatively high altitudes have been reported to lower birth weight but the most recent studies were conducted 20 years ago. Since then, the accuracy for assigning altitude of residence has been improved with the use of geocoding, and recommendations for pregnancy weight gain have changed. We therefore sought to determine whether currently, residence at high altitude (≥ 2500 m, 8250 ft) lowers birth weight in Colorado. Methods Birth certificate data for all live births (n = 670,017) to Colorado residents from 2007 to 2016 were obtained from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Geocoded altitude of maternal residence for the current birth was assigned to each birth record. Linear and logistic regression models were used to examine the effects of altitude on birth weight or low birth weight (< 2500 g) while controlling for other factors affecting birth weight, including pregnancy weight gain. Results Compared to low altitude, infants born at high altitude weighed 118 g less and were more often low birth weight (8.8% vs. 11.7%, p < 0.05). After accounting for other factors influencing birth weight, high altitude reduced birth weight by 101 g and increased the risk of low birth weight by 27%. The only factors with larger impacts on birth weight were hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and cigarette use during pregnancy. Conclusions for Practice High altitude remains an important determinant of elevated LBW rates in Colorado, and likely contributes to Colorado’s comparative resistance towards meeting the Healthy People 2010/2020 nationwide goal to reduce the low birth weight rate to 7.2% by 2020.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1573-1580
Number of pages8
JournalMaternal and Child Health Journal
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy
  • Hypoxia
  • Low birth weight


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