There’s a weird competitiveness that mums have with one another over the birth weight of their offspring. I too, am guilty of suffering from this streak (and when the bragging ensues, I usually come up tops).
The average size of a newborn (that has reached term) is around 7lb 8oz. Understandably any babies born over the 8lb mark incite comments about their size. A baby bigger than average is technically a ‘big baby’, after all. When I was trawling the internet for ‘real life’ success stories, they were pretty thin on the ground for really big babies.
What happens when you have a really big baby? What should you be aware of?
I’ve had two very big babies. My first was 10lb 8 and my second was 10lb 9. Babies that are 9lb15+ are known as macrosomic babies and can come with the increased likelihood of certain complications.
I was 21 when I was pregnant with my first child. I suspected I was much bigger than I should be for how far along I was, but I wasn’t really sure how to articulate it. I was nervous and aware my knowledge was limited.
Towards the end of my pregnancy I was in quite a lot of discomfort, but when I expressed my concerns and requested an extra scan, I was refused. I wish I had stood my ground instead of assuming I was probably overreacting.
The midwife prodded my bump and assured me the baby would be no bigger than 7lbs. I hope her estimation skills have improved, she was three and a half pounds out!
I delivered naturally, 10 days late with the assistance of all the drugs I was offered, including an epidural that saw me lose control of my legs for a few hours (they had to bring someone in to hold my legs on the bed!). Baby was fine, perfect, in fact but I had really suffered.
Although the actual birth was painless thanks to the drugs, it took weeks for me to heal afterwards. I had to have an episiotomy, but I still experienced a tear after that meaning I needed quite a few stitches. I also had terrible grazing that seemed to take forever to heal.
The doctors that came to do checks after the birth questioned why the size of my daughter wasn’t spotted. A consultant who sympathetically checked on my stitches apologised that her size had been missed and told me I would have probably had a C-section if they had known beforehand.
Realistically no harm was done, my little girl was fine and the complications I experienced were minor in the grand scheme of things.
The second time round, they were expecting a big baby. I met with my assigned consultant a handful of times throughout my pregnancy and was promised extra scans from the start.
This time round I knew to trust my instincts and stand my ground. A scan at 38 weeks and 5 had my little boy at around 10lb 5. The consultant I spoke with after this scan told me despite the estimated size of the baby, they would be happy for me to go a full two weeks over my due date without intervention.
I refused to leave the consultant’s room and cried the ugly sort of cry you do when you’re not in control of your emotions. I asked to be induced on my due date and requested a sweep at the earliest they could justify. The answer was still no until I started talking about a cesarean. I’d read the NICE guidelines and knew I could elect to have one, but I really considered it a last resort.
I had read up on big babies this time. I knew about the risks of giving birth to large babies, I’d read a load of internet horror stories about shoulder dystocia (where the baby’s shoulders get stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone and it has difficulty coming out). My biggest fear was that I’d have a difficult attempt at a natural birth that would end in an emergency c-section and I’d be in a lot of pain.
As soon as I started talking about cesareans, the consultant agreed to induce me on my due date if I hadn’t delivered and booked me in for two sweeps from my 39th week. As it happened I delivered two days early (credit to the sweeps), so all my worrying and blubbering was actually for nothing!
Since I read everything I could about big babies, I’m some sort of semi-expert now, so here’s what you need to know:
Health risks associated with macrosomia:
- Higher risk of shoulder dystocia (baby’s shoulders getting stuck).
- Vaginal tears or episiotomy, meaning you’ll probably need stitches.
- Higher risk of heavy blood loss from the mother.
- Baby may have an increased risk or low blood sugar or jaundice.
Who is at risk of macrosomia?
In some cases (like mine) there is no obvious reason for having a very large baby and the reason remains unexplained. It’s thought that mothers who have an increased risk of the condition are diabetics, people who suffer from obesity (BMI 30+), people who have gained a lot of weight during pregnancy, and mothers who go more than two weeks past their due date. If you’ve previously had a macrosomic baby, you are slightly more likely to have another.
What can you do if you suspect your baby is big for its gestational age?
The best thing to do is discuss it with your midwife. If you still have concerns or don’t feel like enough has been done to investigate the size of your baby, you can request an appointment with your assigned consultant. It’s important to remember that pregnancy is an anxious time for a lot of women and the midwives and specialists will see a lot of women with a whole host of concerns. If you feel they are perhaps brushing off your worries, stand your ground and explain the reasons you believe further investigation is needed.
Hopefully this post has served to ease the nerves of anyone expecting a big baby and searching for some reassurance (like I once was). Even in 2014 when I was pregnant with my son, I struggled to find stories where people had given birth to 10lb+ without complications. I suppose horror stories are more notable and get shared more frequently.
It’s worth mentioning that lots of very big babies are born without complications, so don’t worry if you’re expecting a little chubster, it doesn’t necessarily mean your birth will be any different to that of an average sized infant.
Perhaps you’re reading this because you had a big baby too? Were you expecting to? Share your birth stories in the comments!