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Big Baby

2024/05/16
What is the average weight of a baby? What weight will it be considered to be a big baby?

In Singapore, the average weight for full-term (40 weeks) Chinese babies is approximately 3.2kg. About 10% of babies weigh more than 3.6kg, while 3% exceed 4kg.

How do doctors estimate the weight of a fetus?

The estimated foetal weight is calculated through ultrasound, measuring the size of the baby's abdomen. However, it’s important to note that ultrasound estimations are not infallible, with an error margin of 10–15% in overestimation or underestimation.

How do they decide what type of birth method a mother should take?

Vaginal birth is generally encouraged for all women, barring specific medical indications for a caesarean section. A caesarean section, being a major surgery, presents greater risks than a vaginal birth, including potential complications like infection, the necessity for blood transfusions due to bleeding and the risk of blood clots in the legs. In addition, future births are also impacted, with increasing risks of scar rupture during labour in subsequent vaginal births and heightened surgical complications in subsequent carsarean sections.

Is a Caesarean section birth usually encouraged if the mother is carrying a big baby?

A significant concern with big babies is the increased likelihood of shoulder dystocia during vaginal delivery, where the baby’s shoulders become lodged, requiring specialised manoeuvres for delivery. Shoulder dystocia is linked to labour-related infant fatalities and nerve injuries. A local Singaporean study found that a birth weight above 3.6 kg is associated with a 16-fold increase in the risk of shoulder dystocia compared to infants weighing less than 3.6 kg. Therefore, when a mother is carrying a big baby, the decision regarding the safest delivery method should be made following an individualised consultation between the woman and her doctor.

What kind of symptoms do obstetricians look out for to check if the fetus is going to be a big baby?

During antenatal visits, obstetricians palpate the pregnant woman's abdomen to measure the fundal height—the distance from the top of the uterus to the top of the pubic bone. This measurement roughly corresponds to the number of weeks of gestation. This estimation is general; if the abdomen seems to be unusually large for the gestational age, the doctor may recommend an ultrasound to estimate the foetal weight more accurately.

Have there been an increase in the weight of babies delivered? Why? What percentage of births account for big baby births? Have there been an increase in this percentage?

Published local data in the 1970s indicated an average birth weight of 3.18kg for full-term Singaporean Chinese babies, with 10% of babies exceeding 3.71kg. Recent unpublished data suggests that the current average weight for Singaporean babies remains around 3.2kg.

What are the factors that might cause fetuses to grow so big?

Several factors contribute to foetal size, including genetics (parental height and race), maternal diabetes, a history of delivering big babies, pre-pregnancy maternal obesity, excessive maternal weight gain and post-term pregnancy. The interaction between environmental and genetic factors is complex. Most big babies have no identifiable risk factors and no single factor accurately predicts a large birth weight. 

According to previous reports, babies weighing more than 4kg will give problems to Asian mothers. Is this true? What kind of problems will mothers run into?

‚Äč(Footnote: The risks associated with delivering big babies apply generally and are not specific to Asian mothers.)

Are weight gains of about 16kg normal for a mother during pregnancy? What is considered to be an abnormal level of weight gain and will the danger of having a big baby increase if a mother's weight increases too much during a pregnancy?

A healthy weight gain for a woman in her first pregnancy, without dietary restriction, typically ranges from 10 to 16kg. There is a notable correlation between maternal weight gain and the baby's birth weight. Recent studies from the United States indicate that excessive weight gain (over 18kg) can double the risk of delivering a big baby.

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