So, you’ve been told you’re having a giant baby. It probably went something like this: starting around your 20th week of pregnancy coworkers, family members and strangers alike started asking if you were “sure there’s just one in there?!” Around your 30th week of pregnancy, people started asking if you were “ready to pop?” “going to have that baby this weekend?” or “due any day now?” Around your 34th week of pregnancy, just about the time you outgrew your second round of maternity clothes and sweated your way through your 12th prenatal appointment your doctor measured your belly, scrunched up their nose and recommended a 36 week ultrasound “just to get an estimate” about how big your babe might be on their birthday.
So, you went to the ultrasound, laid on the table and gasped when the tech estimated you’d be having a baby in the nine-pound range. And now you’re here, looking forlornly at the stack of newborn clothes your babe will probably never wear, waiting, worrying, and wondering if you’ll survive labor. Perhaps you're considering re-thinking that med-free birth you were hoping for or scheduling that C-section your doctor said might be worth thinking about.
Well, before you get too worked up let me share some thoughts on giant babies. I am the proud mother of two LGA (large for gestational age) boys who came into the world weighing nine pounds, nine ounces and nine pounds, 13 ounces, respectively. My boys are wonderful, snuggly little beings who are all the better for being made big. As you wonder about your baby-to-be, consider the thoughts below.
You might not actually end up with a big baby
In order to estimate a baby’s size, ultrasound technicians take four measurements, head circumference, the distance from one side of baby’s head to the other, abdominal circumference and femur length. These measurements are plugged into a formula that spits out an estimated fetal weight. This fetal weight estimate produced by this formula is a really good guess but, no matter how perfectly measurements were made, it’s still just a guess. These estimates are routinely off by up to a pound leaving moms surprised on the day of birth when their supposed sumo baby turned out to be an even seven pounds, 13 ounces.
Complications are rare
One of the most common complications that LGA babies face is the possibility of shoulder dystocia at birth, essentially, getting stuck. Shoulder dystocia is often one of the first possible issues mentioned by a doctor after a baby measures large, which can sometimes lead to a discussion of C-section or other birth interventions.
While the thought of a baby getting stuck is scary, the fact is, shoulder dystocia doesn’t happen to most babies, even big ones. Shoulder dystocia happens in less than one percent of deliveries. When it does happen, only about 16 percent of those affected will have had conventional risk factors, like being large. Shoulder dystocia can happen to babies of any size and, while it does happen a little more often with big babies it’s usually easily resolved by changing position or with assistance from the delivering doctor.
Even if they’re big to start, they might not be huge forever
My first baby started life in the 99th percentile for weight. He dropped to the 60th by his first birthday and has remained there as he grown over the last two years. My second baby also started life in the 99th percentile for weight. He has since remained among the heaviest of babies his age. This pattern, some big babies staying big and others dropping to a more average size is typical. Birth weight does have some impact on a baby’s eventual adult size but is much less predictive than their parents' size.
Big Babies don’t usually make delivery any more painful
Most first time moms feel some apprehension about labor. Being told that you’re growing a big baby can intensify those fears. The reality is that 95 percent of women, not just those delivering big babies, experience vaginal tearing when they deliver their first child. The good news is that most women, not just those delivering average sized babies, don’t tear during subsequent deliveries. So, if you’re expecting an LGA baby, take comfort in knowing that labor is hard and painful for all moms and won't necessarily be worse because your baby is big.
Shopping big is always a good idea
Leave the tags on the newborn clothes you've already bought because your baby probably won’t fit into them for long, if ever. Same goes for newborn diapers. It might feel disappointing that your babe won’t ever fit into the tiniest of baby clothing, take is as a first lesson in just how quickly kids grow and just how important shopping a size up can be.
Good luck to all the mama’s who are getting ready to deliver their big babies. You’ve got this!