Over the last 12 years, working with pregnant women, I am witness latterly to a definite increase in the weight of newborns compared to the earlier years of my journey. It is not unusual for mums to report back to me that they have delivered a baby well over 9lbs. Of course, that’s enough to make us all cross our legs in sympathy, but with the growing trend of mums delivering larger babies, is it time to talk about the dangers of foetal overgrowth?
Foetal overgrowth (macrosomia) is most easily defined as a birth weight above the 90th percentile, or in weight terms over 9lbs 8oz. There are minor variables depending on the child’s ethnic origin.
Macrosomia is recognised as a cause of foetal and maternal morbidity (being subject to disease) and mortality (being subject to death). There are a few factors which will play a role in determining foetal macrosomia, including:
- Gestational diabetes
- Prolonged pregnancy
- High parity (the number of times a woman has given birth)
- Genetic factors
Macrosomia is also linked to complications of birth, such as:
- Shoulder dystocia (a medical emergency)
After the delivery of the head, the anterior shoulder of the infant cannot pass below, or requires significant manipulation to pass below, the pubic symphysis.
- Traumatic birth injuries
Birth trauma is a general term used to describe any cuts, fractures, or other injuries sustained by anewborn baby during labor or delivery. … Difficult labor or delivery (dystocia) Prolonged labor. Abnormal fetal position at birth (baby is in a head-up, buttocks-first, or breech, position.
The medical condition resulting from deprivation of oxygen to a newborn infant that lasts long enough during the birth process to cause physical harm, usually to the brain.
So given the awful dangers associated with Macrosomia, how can we best ensure that our babies don’t grow too big? Even if you are genetically predisposed to having a larger baby, these tips still apply so that you can give your baby the best chance of growing within the normal ranges under the 90th percentile:
Even if you just walk up hill and and down dale for 20 mins each day, this will ensure you and your baby are healthy and well. Even better, find a pregnancy exercise specialist like me in your area to take you safely through more specific exercise.
- Watch what you eat!
Pregnancy is not an excuse to eat cake. Everything you eat also goes to your baby. If you eat too much, especially starch and sugar, then you will most likely gain more than the recommended 12kilos for pregnancy. That’s a little under a stone for the entire duration of your pregnancy. Read more about healthy eating in pregnancy in this post about the dangers of sugar in pregnancy. Avoid pizza, pasta, sweets, cakes, ice-cream, chocolate. My book has a great chapter for healthy recipes created by my friend, nutritionist Barbara Bradbury.
- Keep your insulin in check!
If you are diagnosed with any form of diabetes, then make sure you are managing it responsibly. Talk to your health carer if you need support to do this safely.
- Drink water!
Switch from your cups of tea and fizzy drinks to clean, plain water. Hidden calories in sugary or synthetically sweetened drinks can increase your baby’s mass. Fill a litre bottle of water, still or fizzy, and fill it again, try to get through TWO each day. Don’t forget to add your electrolytes to ensure absorption of good salts and minerals your body needs. You can buy sugar free dispensable electrolyte tablets online to add to water. Excellent to help manage pregnancy cramps too!
- Top Tip!
If you are craving sugar, it usually means you need salt and good fat, so try eating half an avocado with Himalayan salt crushed on top, delicious! And watch that sugar craving disappear!
Learning to switch off from stress is a clever way of keeping your insulin levels in check, even if you don’t have diabetes. If you are a fidget or just don’t DO chilling, then this easy guided pregnancy meditation will help you to get in the zone without going all incense and sandals 😉
Most of all ladies, educate yourself and read as much as you can about healthy eating and the impact it can have on your unborn child. The old saying, you are what you eat is so true. Although some genetic factors mean we may have big babies, we can certainly do as much as we can to ensure that we are not contributing to the problem by being active and eating healthilly. Lots of leafy greens, fresh veg, steamed fish, good fats all add up to great health!
About the blogger:
Marie Behenna is the author of The FitMama Method, published by Souvenir Press 2012 and creator of the ChillMAMA Pregnancy Meditation
Marie teaches exercise and nutrition to pregnant and post partum mothers in North Hampshire, United Kingdom. www.fitmamastudio.com
National Institute of Health