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Every so often here’s a news story about a really huge baby being born– most recently a mom in Utah birthed a 14-pound baby boy (via c-section), winning the distinction of the biggest baby of 2013 in the U.S.
This Utah baby is not the biggest of all time, though. The largest baby ever recorded was 23 pounds, born in Ohio in 1879. In 2009, a 19.2-pound baby was born in Indonesia, and in 2007 a 17-pound baby was born in Russia.
The medical term for a big baby is macrosomia, defined as a baby born weighing more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces. What makes a baby so big? And can such a big baby be healthy?
Most often these big babies are the result of too much glucose during pregnancy, usually because of undiagnosed or poorly controlled gestational diabetes (GD) or type II diabetes, though more rarely other genetic conditions such as hemolytic disease are to blame. Because obesity is on the rise worldwide, the rate of gestational diabetes is also increasing, and so are the numbers of big babies. If you are obese, have gestational diabetes or had type II diabetes before your pregnancy you have double the risk of an extra-large baby.
Because prenatal ultrasound is so imprecise when it comes to predicting the size of a baby at delivery, though, medical organizations do not recommend scheduling a c-section for a suspected big baby, unless you have been diagnosed with diabetes.
Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes it’s a good idea to control your intake of processed sugars and white flour during pregnancy. Not only can this help prevent developing GD later in pregnancy, but can help prevent yeast infections, mood swings and nutritional deficiencies. You can also reduce the risk of birthing a big baby by losing weight before becoming pregnant, though of course not all pregnancies are planned in advance.
So can a big baby be healthy? They can be, though these extra-large babies face extra risks, which include shoulder injuries during birth (dystocia) if they become stuck in the birth canal, jaundice, and in the case of babies born to diabetic moms, low blood sugar at birth because the baby’s body produces extra insulin to process the extra glucose. Big babies are also more likely to grow up to be overweight adults. But the good news is that all of these conditions are treatable, and the odds are excellent that you and your big baby will be just fine.