Studies have shown that large babies are at greater risk for birth injuries and long-term health problems, such as childhood obesity. While you will not know your baby’s weight until he or she is born, there are certain signs – such as large fundal height and presence of excess amniotic fluid – that may indicate that your baby will be large. As discussed below, there are also many known risk factors for giving birth to a larger child.
Large Baby Terminology
Newborns above the 90th percentile for weight at their gestational age are considered to be large babies. This is known as being “large for gestational age,” or “LGA.”
The term “fetal macrosomia” is used to describe babies that are exceptionally large regardless of their gestational age. A newborn will be diagnosed with fetal macrosomia if her birth weight in excess of 8 pounds, 13 ounces. Babies weighing in excess of 9 pounds, 15 ounces are considered to be much larger than average.
Risk Factors for LGA and Fetal Macrosomia
Several risk factors for LGA and fetal macrosomia are listed below. While many of these are within the mother’s control, others, simply, are not. If your baby grows to be exceptionally large during gestation, either early-term induction or delivery by cesarean section (C-section) may be your best option for avoiding birth injuries and other serious complications.
Known risk factors for high birth weight include:
- Maternal age – Mothers who give birth after age 35 are more likely to give birth to large babies.
- Maternal diabetes – Maternal diabetes is one of the risk factors most closely associated with LGA and fetal macrosomia. This includes both pre-gestational and gestational diabetes.
- Maternal obesity and excessive weight gain during pregnancy – Mothers who are overweight are more likely to give birth to large babies.
- Having been pregnant before – Birth weight typically increases by up to four ounces with each pregnancy.
- Previous fetal macrosomia – If you were born with fetal macrosomia or if you have other children who were large babies, these are both risk factors for future fetal macrosomia.
- Being overdue – The longer your baby is in the womb, the more opportunity she has to grow before being born.
If none of these risk factors are present but you still have a large fundal height or are experiencing excessive amniotic fluid, it is possible that your baby has a condition that is affecting her growth. Your doctor can run tests to determine the possible causes and recommend a course of action.
Complications Linked to LGA and Fetal Macrosomia
Excessive birth weight presents risks for both the mother and the child. The primary risks are listed below:
Risks for the baby
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) – Large babies are at greater risk of developing hypoglycemia. The effects of neonatal hypoglycemia can range from benign discomfort to serious complications in the cardiopulmonary and central nervous systems.
- Childhood obesity – Obese children are at increased risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Obese children are also more likely to be obese as adults.
- Metabolic syndrome – Metabolic syndrome involves a combination of increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, and excess body fat. Together, these increase the baby’s risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
- Shoulder dystocia – Shoulder dystocia is a condition that occurs during childbirth where the baby’s shoulders get stuck behind the maternal symphysis or make impact with the sacral promontory. Shoulder dystocia can present serious risks for both mother and child and may require an emergency C-section.
Risks for the mother
- Delivery complications – High birth weight is closely correlated with increased complications during delivery. For vaginal delivery, use of forceps or vacuum extraction may be required. If these fail, a C-section may be required.
- Birth canal injuries and excessive bleeding – Tissue and perineal muscle tears are more common among mothers who give birth to babies with fetal macrosomia. Giving birth to a large baby can also make your uterine muscles take longer to contract after birth, which can lead to excessive bleeding.
- Uterine rupture – Women who have had prior C-sections or uterine surgeries are at greater risk for uterine rupture when giving birth to a large baby.
Ultimately, other than taking care of yourself during your pregnancy, there is not much you can do to avoid giving birth to a large baby. If your baby wants to grow, she is going to grow. However, by understanding the risks and planning for the possibility of LGA or macrosomia, you can help make sure that you and your baby are both safe and healthy when you go home.
Contact BirthInjuryJustice.org for More Information
If you have questions about LGA or macrosomia, or if you experienced complications while giving birth to a large baby and need help understanding what went wrong, the attorneys at BirthInjuryJustice.org are here to help. We can help you review your situation and determine if a hospital error or medical malpractice may be to blame. To learn more, call (855) 712-7818 or contact us online today.