If you were a larger than average baby at birth, chances are your mom reminds you -- perhaps on your birthday -- of the difficulty she suffered during your delivery.
Similar reminders are likely in store for two big newborns who've made headlines this year: a 13.5-pound baby born in California and a 13-pound baby born in Australia. That's almost twice the size of an average baby.
The medical term large for gestational age (LGA) describes babies with a birth weight greater than the 90th percentile for age. The average U.S. birth weight is 7 to 7.5 pounds.
Delivering a big baby -- defined as one larger than nine pounds -- can cause difficulties including vaginal and rectal tearing and postpartum hemorrhage.
For the baby, immediate risks include a higher risk of birth injuries such as shoulder dystocia, which happens when the baby's shoulder gets stuck in the birth canal and oxygen takes too long to deliver.
Post-delivery, potential complications include low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), jaundice, birth defects and breathing problems -- any of which can lead to a hospital's neonatal intensive care unit for close monitoring.
Pregnant women should seek medical care from a trusted provider throughout their pregnancy to monitor issues as they arise.
"Prenatal care is extremely important to monitor fetal growth and maternal weight gain, and manage maternal illnesses during pregnancy," said Dr. Jeffrey George, medical director of neonatology, Advocate Children's Hospital.
Large babies are more likely to be delivered by Caesarean section rather than vaginally -- which brings with it possible complications such as post-surgical infection or fever, blood loss, injury to organs, blood clots, bad reactions to medication or anesthesia, scar tissue and difficulty with future deliveries.
As these big babies grow, they're more likely than normal-sized newborns to face health risks such as a predilection toward obesity in childhood and beyond.
Large-for-gestational-age newborns born to mothers with diabetes are likely to be significantly overweight later in childhood and adulthood, putting them at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes (adult onset diabetes, a chronic condition).
Risk factors for having a larger-than-average baby include having a high body mass index, diabetes and going past your due date. You're also likely to deliver a big baby if you've done so in the past. Big boys are more likely to be delivered than big girls.
Births of big babies are increasing worldwide, a 2013 study published in the medical journal The Lancet reported. The study analyzed data for nearly 300,000 deliveries in 23 developing countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia.
"Increasing prevalence of diabetes and obesity in women of reproductive age in developing countries could be associated with a parallel increase in" deliveries of extra-large babies, the Lancet reported.
• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Advocate Children's Hospital. For more information, visit www.advocatechildrenshospital.com.