A tweet of Brian Liddle, a baby boy born at 13 pounds, 4 ounces in January(Photo: USA TODAY)
Babies weighing 13, 14 and 15 pounds at birth have been making headlines in recent years, including a Texas newborn who weighed 14 pounds and 13 ounces at his birth in December 2018.
Each of those headline-grabbing babies weighs nearly twice as much as an average infant at birth: The U.S. National Library of Medicine says that an average birthweight range is between 5.5 pounds and 8.8 pounds. Having such a large baby can be both difficult to predict and potentially risky to the health of the mother and baby, experts say.
Is having a baby this size unusual?
If it seems like there's been an increase in headlines about bigger-than-usual babies, there's data to back that up: There has been a 15 to 25 percent increase in babies weighing 8 pounds and 13 ounces or more in the past two to three decades in developed countries, according to 2013 report from medical journal The Lancet.
However, the largest baby on record was born in 1876, according to Guinness World Records. The 22 pound boy born in Ohio sadly died 11 hours after birth.
While an average birthweight is about 7 pounds and 11 ounces, that's not necessarily the ideal weight for every mother and child: “What the right size is for any mom or baby is quite a big range,” Dr. Hyagriv Simhan, director of maternal-fetal medicine at Magee-Women's Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told USA TOAY in 2017.
But when the child weighs more than 10 pounds, there can be additional risks for both baby babies and their mothers.
How do some babies get so big?
Multiple factors contribute to large birthweight, including certain health conditions and family history, Simhan said. Diabetes, or gestational diabetes — which develops during pregnancy — can predispose women to having babies over 10 pounds, he said.
Because physicians have to use unreliable methods of gauging a baby's size — such as ultrasounds and physical exams — it can be hard to predict if a baby will be unusually large, according to Simhan.
A woman's body type can also contribute to the size of the baby. A woman who is 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds is more likely to have a larger baby than a 5-foot-3 woman who weighs 100 pounds, Simhan said.
What are the risks?
Immediate risks of a large birthweight for the mother are delivery complications such as vaginal and rectal laceration or postpartum hemorrhage, Dr. Clark Nugent, a professor of gynecology and obstetrics at the University of Michigan, told USA TODAY in 2017. Long-term risks include high risk of pelvic floor disorders or prolapse, he added.
For the baby, there’s also a higher risk of shoulder dystocia, or when the baby’s head delivers but the shoulders don’t, and oxygen takes too long to deliver.
A baby that weighs more than 10 pounds is more likely to be delivered via C-section, Simhan said. But even then, there are risks of bleeding and delivery complications.
Other potential health complications include low blood sugar or an elevated blood count, which could lead to the baby being admitted to a neonatal all-intensive nursery.
Long-term health complications to the baby include obesity in childhood and potentially beyond, Simhan said
Arlington, Texas, music teachers Jennifer and Eric Medlock welcomed their son Ali James Medlock into the world Dec. 12. The newborn weighed a whopping 14 pounds and 13 ounces. (Photo: Courtesy of Jennifer and Eric Medlock