Size of the mother and father can affect the risk of having a ‘big’ baby

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Researchers from the University of Bergen, Norway, have discovered that if you or your partner were “big” babies at birth, there is a significantly increased chance that you will give birth to a large baby yourself.

The study could pave the way for improved prenatal care by identifying pregnancies at a higher risk of obstetric complications during labor and delivery.

Methodology and Key Findings

Utilizing data from the Medical Birth Registry of Norway, the world’s oldest such registry, researchers analyzed 647,957 births spanning 50 years. The study only considered singleton births that were carried to term.

The scientific term for a “big” baby is “macrosomic,” defined as a newborn weighing 4500 grams or more.

The rate of macrosomia was higher among the newer generation, with 4.0% experiencing it as compared to 3.2% among the parent generation.

Parents’ birthweight emerged as a significant factor in the likelihood of having a macrosomic baby:

  • If both parents were macrosomic at birth, there was a more than 6-fold increase in the risk.
  • If only the father had been macrosomic, the risk more than doubled (relative risk 2.2).
  • If only the mother had been macrosomic, the risk increased more than threefold (relative risk 3.4).

Maternal Body Mass Index (BMI) at the start of pregnancy also appeared to play a role:

  • Among babies born to parents who were both macrosomic, 17% were also macrosomic if the mother had a normal pre-pregnancy weight (BMI 18.5-24.9).
  • This figure rose to 31% if the mother was obese (BMI of 30 or more).

Implications for Obstetric Care

“Birthing a baby who is macrosomic comes with an increased risk of obstetric complications,” warns researcher Cathrine Ebbing.

Despite initial hypotheses that evolutionary mechanisms might protect parents who were also macrosomic, the study found no substantial reduction in risk.

What’s Next?

The study highlights the importance of parental birthweight and maternal BMI as contributing factors to the risk of macrosomia, offering potential for more targeted prenatal care and interventions.

However, more research is needed to explore the clinical utility of these findings.

The study has been published in the journal Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology and adds valuable insight into generational birth outcomes.

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The research findings can be found in Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology.

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