The larger-than-normal babies born this year were shocking at first, but with each astonishing birth announcement, the topic is quickly becoming a “been there, done that” convo — but doctors are anything but over it. In fact, Today reports that health professionals are actually beginning to worry.
We were first shocked to hear about the 10-pound baby born in February to a mother who had no idea she was even pregnant. Ten pounds, we thought… holy moly! Then there was the 14-pound baby girl born in Pennsylvania, and only 15 days later over in Germany, a 13-pound baby was born naturally. Each time, we search the report for something else shocking besides just the weight, because the big baby births are anything but new at this point.
In fact, we never actually understood a large baby to be in danger of anything but a little extra pudge, but according to Dr. Robert Barbieri, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Harvard Medical School and chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, big babies bring along a slew of potential health problems for themselves and even their mom during the birthing process.
If a woman is carrying an exceptionally large child, the doctor may choose to perform a C-section to minimize the risk of trauma or tearing to the mother. This surgery also helps to prevent shoulder dystocia in the unborn child, which occurs when a large baby gets stuck under the pubic bone during delivery, as well as fractured bones that could occur during a natural birth.
Dr. Irina Burd, an assistant professor of gynecology, obstetrics, and neurology at Johns Hopkins Medicine says, “[The babies] are not just obese at delivery, but there are epigenetic changes that program them for the rest of their lives,” which could include a heightened risk for obesity and cancer.
The cause of such large babies has been mostly attributed to obesity in the mothers, which is why doctors encourage women who are obese to gain very little weight during their pregnancy. Dr. Burd notes that diabetes in overweight and obese mothers is not uncommon, whether they struggle with the disease before or after conception. The condition sends high blood sugar levels to the fetus, causing the baby’s pancreas to increase its insulin levels, leaving the child with low blood sugar after birth.
The increased sugars also act as a growth factor, says Dr. Hyagriv Simhan, chief of maternal fetal medicine and vice chair for obstetrics at McGee Women’s Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. This can cause the babies to look significantly older once they’re born, although their lungs may be underdeveloped.
Dr. Barbieri has begun to see a trend of inducing women — which was previously only used if the mother had developed preeclampsia or other blood sugar problems — whose babies are abnormally large as early as 39 weeks, in order to essentially get them out before they get any bigger.
We had no idea that there was so much risk involved with these big babies, but we guess it makes sense. We’re happy to report that all three of the aforementioned babes are all doing well, and we’re just glad the world hasn’t seen another 24-pound baby since 1879!