PARENTS
08/19/2013 05:38 pm ET | Updated Aug 20, 2013

Bigger Baby Trend Worries Doctors As Health Concerns Mount Over Supersized Deliveries

Tipping the scales at 13.67 pounds at birth, baby girl Maria Lorena Marin became the biggest child ever born through natural childbirth in Spain earlier this month.

Mere weeks before, a baby girl named Jasleen became Germany's heaviest ever after she was born naturally at a weight of 13.47 pounds.

jasleen germany largest baby

Newborn Jasleen was born at University Hospital in Leipzig on July 26. She weighed 13.47 pounds and measured 22.6 inches long at birth.

Despite their extraordinary size, Maria and Jasleen haven't been anomalies. Throughout the past few years, a "bigger baby boom" has seemingly swept the globe, with several records being smashed in countries around the world.

Last year, for instance, a baby boy who weighed 15.5 pounds became China's heaviest and in March, the 15-plus pound baby George King was born in Britain, becoming the second largest baby ever to be delivered vaginally in the United Kingdom

And it's not just the record-breakers who have been making headlines. According to experts, heavier babies have been on the rise generally. Citing a February report from the medical journal the Lancet, NBC News writes that there's been a "15 percent to 25 percent increase in babies weighing 8 pounds, 13 ounces or more (or 4,000 grams, the weight where a baby is considered oversized) in the past two to three decades in developed countries." Larger babies have reportedly also been on the rise in developing countries such as Algeria and China.

When it comes to babies, bigger isn't always better, however. As NBC notes, with a slew of health risks associated with higher birth weight for both child and mom, doctors are now raising alarm bells out of concern for this bigger baby trend.

Here, we look at some of their major worries:

1) Maternal obesity linked to higher birth weight

In 2012, a study published in the journal Diabetes Care, revealed that women who are overweight during pregnancy tend to have much heavier babies. Obese women without gestational diabetes were 163 percent more likely to have oversized babies, the study concluded.

"If the baby is born too large it increases the risk for very serious consequences both during delivery, for the mother and the infant, as well as later in life -- for the infant," said study author Mary Helen Black, a biostatistician with Kaiser Permanente Southern California's department of research and evaluation. "There may be a general perception that, 'Oh, the baby's big, but so what?' That's a misperception."

Experts say this is especially alarming in developing countries, such as those in sub-Saharan Africa, where neonatal death is already high. In November, research published in the Lancet revealed that babies born to obese mothers in sub-Saharan Africa were 50 percent more likely to die in the first four weeks of life than those born to women who were of healthy weight. (Over a quarter of adults are predicted to be overweight in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030, and nearly a fifth of adults will be obese, according to the report.)

No matter where you are in the world, doctors recommend that all overweight and obese women who are considering getting pregnant take steps to lose some pounds.

Being overweight during pregnancy can lead to a higher risk of birth defects, preterm birth and obesity later in the child's life. Obesity during pregnancy has also been linked to children developing insulin resistance, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

In a new study out of Scotland, researchers found that children born to overweight or obese moms are more likely to die before the age of 55.

2) Health risks for baby

Larger babies are at greater risk of shoulder dystocia -- which means that the shoulders have grown so big that they can get stuck during delivery -- and in turn, fractured bones and oxygen deprivation.

When 15-pound baby George King was being delivered earlier this year, for instance, his shoulders reportedly got stuck, depriving him of oxygen for several minutes.

Oversized babies are also said to be at risk of enlarged or too-small organs.

3) Health risks for mom

In short, larger babies are harder and more dangerous to deliver. If a baby gets stuck, moms can end up with trauma and tearing. Moms of bigger babies are also at a higher risk of developing postpartum hemorrhaging.

Bigger babies have also led, in part, to an increase of cesarean section and labor inductions, which come with their own complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rates of C-sections increased from 20 percent in 1996 to 31 percent in 2009.

In March, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warned moms against getting a C-section or induction if their only concern is that their baby will be big:

[S]uspecting that a baby is macrosomic (large) is not an indication to induce or deliver by cesarean before 39 weeks.

Early-term infants have higher rates of respiratory distress, respiratory failure, pneumonia, and admission to neonatal intensive care units compared with infants born at 39 to 40 weeks gestation. Infants born at 37 to 38 weeks also have a higher mortality rate than those born later.

Though larger babies may be on the rise, none can hold a candle to what the Guinness Book of World Records has called the biggest baby ever born. In 1879, in Seville, Ohio, a boy weighing 23 pounds, 12 ounces was delivered to Anna Bates, a 7-foot, 5.5-inch Canadian woman. The baby died 11 hours after birth.

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