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Bigger Babies Equal Greater Birth Injury Risk

infant -birthA big baby boom appears to be sweeping the globe, with 13 and 14-pound newborns making headlines in Europe. The not so-little Jasleen became a record-breaker in Germany, when her 13.47 pound frame was delivered naturally. At 13.67 pounds, Maria Lorena Marin stole the spotlight when she was pronounced Spain’s largest baby born via natural childbirth. However, China and Britain each have their own record-breakers, with two newborns who tipped the scales at more than 15 pounds.

The unexpected news is that these super-sized babies aren’t the exception to the rule, as statistics show that heavier babes are on the rise. NBC News reports there has been a 15 to 25 percent increase in extra-large babies – or those who weigh 8 pounds, 13 ounces or more – over the past 20 to 30 years in developed countries.

The trending data has doctors concerned about the increased birth injury risk posed to these newcomers, as bigger definitely isn’t better in terms of potential childbirth complications. There are health risks for both baby and mother, and many predisposing factors to look out for, says The Huffington Post.

Birth injury risk greater with oversized babies

Heavier babies are at an increased risk for complications both before and during labor, and one of the most common problems is shoulder dystocia – where the baby’s shoulders literally get caught under the mother’s pelvic bone during childbirth.  Shoulder dystocia, when not swiftly and properly managed through special manipulations, can turn into a serious problem if the baby is deprived of oxygen for prolonged periods of time. It can be one of the most alarming emergencies in the delivery room, and often requires physicians to order an emergency C-section or assist natural delivery through use of forceps and vacuum suction.

Data from the American Family Physician shows that risks for shoulder dystocia jump to 5 to 9 percent among fetuses weighing 9 lb, 14 ounces and greater. Possible injuries to the baby include brachial plexus palsies, fractured bones, and lacerations to the head. If fetal hypoxia (low oxygen) occurs for an extended period, the baby can also sustain lasting brain damage.

Oversized babies have also contributed to a boost in Cesarean sections and Pitocin-induced labors, both of which carry their own complications. The CDC states that C-sections have increased dramatically in the past several years, climbing up to 31 percent.  This past March, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists cautioned expectant mothers against Pitocin induction or C-sections if their primary concern is having a large baby (a condition known as macrosomia), even though heavy babies are more painful and dangerous to deliver.

Overweight mothers predisposed to having bigger babies

Multiple studies have found that maternal obesity is linked to higher birth weights, both for women who suffer gestational diabetes and those without. The medical community recommends that any severly overweight woman who is planning on becoming pregnant take active measures to achieve a healthy weight prior to conception. In addition to a greater birth injury risk, obesity during pregnancy has been associated with newborns who later develop heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Perhaps even more compelling, a new Scottish study found that babies who were born to obese or overweight mothers were more likely to die before the age of 55.