Researchers at the University of Bergen, Norway, have found that you are significantly more likely to give birth to a large baby yourself if you or your partner were “large” babies at birth.
The study could pave the way for improved prenatal care by identifying pregnancies that are at higher risk of obstetric complications during labor and delivery.
Methodology and main results
Using data from Norway’s medical birth registry, the world’s oldest registry of its kind, the researchers analyzed 647,957 births over a 50-year period. The study only considered single births that were carried to term.
The scientific term for a “large” baby is “macrosomic”, defined as a newborn weighing 4500 grams or more.
The rate of macrosomia was higher in the newer generation, affecting 4.0% compared to 3.2% in the parental generation.
Parents’ birth weight has been shown to be a significant factor in the likelihood of having a macrosomal baby:
- If both parents were macrosomal at birth, the risk increased more than six-fold.
- If only the father had been macrosomal, the risk would have more than doubled (relative risk 2.2).
- If only the mother had been macrosomal, the risk increased more than three-fold (relative risk 3.4).
Maternal body mass index (BMI) at the beginning of pregnancy also seemed to play a role:
- Of the babies whose parents were both macrosomic, 17% were also macrosomic if the mother was of normal weight before pregnancy (BMI 18.5-24.9).
- This figure increased to 31% when the mother was obese (BMI 30 or more).
Effects on obstetrics
“Having a macrosomal baby carries an increased risk of obstetric complications,” warns researcher Cathrine Ebbing.
Despite initial hypotheses that evolutionary mechanisms might protect parents who are also macrosomic, the study failed to find any significant reduction in risk.
The study underscores the importance of parental birth weight and maternal BMI as factors contributing to the risk of macrosomia, and offers potential for more targeted prenatal care and interventions.
However, more research is needed to examine the clinical utility of these findings.
The study was published in the journal Pediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology and provides valuable insight into birth outcomes across generations.
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The research results can be found In Pediatric and perinatal epidemiology.
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