Hidden Health Risks of Delivering an Oversized Baby
As a social media manager for a health system, I know nothing gets people talking quite like news about babies and little kids. One afternoon in December, I got word that a 14-pound baby was born at our hospital—one of the largest ever to be born at the facility. I scheduled the post and remarked to my cubicle-mate, “I don’t think Luke was 14-lbs when he was a year old, much less at birth!”
Comparatively, Luke was a tiny nugget of a baby compared to this bundle of joy (my son weighed in at 8 pounds, 11 ounces). Babies typically weigh between 5.5 pounds and 10 pounds. In fact, all but 5% of babies fall into this weight range. However, studies have found a 15 to 25% increase in the delivery of babies weighing 9 pounds or more. This sweet Florida baby isn’t the first or the last. He joins a handful of other infants who tipped the scales at 13-pounds-plus, including a California baby at 13 pounds, 10 ounces; a German baby girl at 13.5 pounds; and a British baby born at 15 pounds, 7 ounces – the latter two both born vaginally.
Many larger-than-average babies are born perfectly healthy and are just genetically inclined to be larger than other babies. In my case, my almost 9-pounder was swollen from fluid they gave me during my labor, and he rapidly dropped a pound before he left the hospital. However, this isn't always the case.
If the thought of giving birth naturally to a baby that weighs as much as two gallons of water isn't concerning enough, there are other concerns from doctors about this sudden spike in “oversized” babies. From preeclampsia and high blood pressure to a condition called shoulder dystocia, here are a few health concerns related to giving birth to an oversized baby.
About 4% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes, or high blood sugar levels, that appear during pregnancy. Larger-sized babies don’t cause gestational diabetes; rather, gestational diabetes can lead to the fetus gaining more weight. Your pancreas normally produces more insulin to overcome the effect of the pregnancy hormones, but when it is unable to do so, your blood sugar level will rise. This leads to high insulin levels in your baby, leaving babies with low blood sugar after birth. Watching your weight, cutting out sugar, and getting regular OB exams can help your doctor diagnose gestational diabetes before it causes additional weight gain for your baby.
When I was a first-time mom, I got to the point in my late pregnancy when it occurred to me that the baby would have to get out, and the exit point is … well, not as big as the baby is. If that’s not terrifying enough, imagine if your baby was stuck in your birth canal. Shoulder dystocia, a rare emergency-birth situation, happens when your baby’s shoulder is stuck under your pubic bone. Your baby must then be born very quickly to ensure that he or she has enough oxygen. Shoulder dystocia only occurs in 2 of every 100 births, but one of the main causes is a large baby. Ask your doctor or midwife what measures they have in place to deal with this condition.
Regardless of the health of your baby, if he or she is larger in size, especially larger than 10 pounds, you could be at risk for a difficult labor and delivery. Moms of larger babies may experience blood loss, tearing, and damage to the tailbone. Delivering a large baby may also increase the chances of having an unplanned cesarean. Your doctor may suggest early induction of labor if he or she suspects that your baby is larger than average.
Breast Cancer Risk Increase
Complications from giving birth to an above-average sized baby can be further reaching than just during your labor and delivery. A study conducted the University of Texas suggested that women who gave birth to large babies have more than twice the risk of breast cancer compared with women who gave birth to smaller-sized babies. The reason? Hormones that caused your baby’s excess growth may create an environment that will later encourage the development of breast cancer down the line.
Of course, all things considered, sometimes a big baby is just that – a big baby. Both mom and baby can be perfectly healthy. These concerns are simply a reminder that talking to your doctor, especially if there is mention of your baby measuring large, is always a good idea.
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