Texas Mom Gives Birth to 16 Pound Baby Boy

tdy_curry_baby3_110711_grid-5x2Janet Johnson and Michael Brown shocked the world last week when their 16 pound baby boy named JaMichael was born. According to TODAY Parenting, he came close to breaking the world record of the largest baby ever and he may very well have tipped the scale to be the largest baby on record in Texas. 

Janet suffered from gestational diabetes during her pregnancy, which may have contributed to JaMichael’s massive size —the hospital didn’t even have any diapers big enough to fit him! When he was born via Cesarean section last Friday, he weighed 16 pounds, 1 ounce, measuring a full 2 feet long with a head measurement of 15 inches and a chest measuring 17 inches.

“It’s a beautiful baby, but for health reasons, we’d rather not see a baby this large,” a hospital nurse who was in the delivery room for JaMichael’s birth, told reporters. “They can have a little harder time maintaining their blood sugar.” JaMichael is reportedly progressing well and expected to be released from the hospital soon.

In the wake of this story, we asked Parents.com medical expert Michele Hakakha, M.D., to shed some light on JaMichael’s situation, and to answer a few important questions related to gestational diabetes:

How did this happen and what are the health issues he is facing?

This likely occurred from either undiagnosed pre-existing diabetes (meaning the woman started her pregnancy with diabetes and didn’t know it) or very poorly controlled gestational diabetes with chronically elevated blood sugars. 

What is gestational diabetes? 

Gestational diabetes means that the sugar (glucose) levels in the blood are high during pregnancy.  It is a type of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy and is caused by a hormone made by the placenta (human placental lactogen or hPl).  hPl makes it harder for the body to use insulin.  This causes the pancreas to work harder in order to make more insulin.  In some women, the pancreas can’t keep up with the body’s demand for insulin causing a temporary diabetes during pregnancy.

How common is it?

About 4% of all pregnant women get it, but it is more common in women over the age of 35.

What are the symptoms of gestational diabetes?

This is the tricky part.  Typically, there are no symptoms and this is why it is so important for ALL pregnant women to be screened.  Occasionally if the diabetes is severe, you may be excessively thirsty and urinate frequently.  Additionally, your practitioner can pick it up during your routine office visit by seeing a lot of sugar in your urinalysis (the urine test you have every time you go in to see your practitioner).

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Gestational diabetes is something that all pregnant women are screened for between 24 and 28 weeks.  A woman is asked to drink a sugary drink (containing 50 grams of glucose) and then her blood is drawn one hour later.  If this screening test is elevated (the cut-off can vary, but usually ranges from 130 to 140), a patient is asked to come back to have a 3 hour glucose tolerance test performed.  This test is a little more involved and is comprised of getting 4 blood tests: the first blood draw is done in the fasting state and the 3 that follow are done at 1 hour intervals after drinking another sugary drink provided by the lab or your practitioner (only this time there are 100 grams of glucose in the drink, which unfortunately doesn’t make it taste any better).  If two or more of the four values are elevated, a diagnosis of gestational diabetes is made.

Can women prevent getting gestational diabetes? If so, how?

It is very difficult to prevent getting gestational diabetes because many risk factors are out of one’s control (age, family history, ethnicity).  However, we do know that obesity and increased pregnancy weight gain are risk factors.  So, starting your pregnancy at a healthy weight and being mindful of weight gain during a pregnancy (25 to 35 lbs for women of normal pre-pregnancy weight, 11 to 20 lbs for women who are overweight prior to pregnancy), in addition to getting regular exercise, can all help prevent diabetes.

How can women who do get gd wisely manage it and stay healthy?

The key point is excellent sugar control, as babies born to women with gestational diabetes that have well-controlled sugars, have minimal to no additional risks.  It is important to meet with your practitioner or a diabetic educator/nutritionist to go over your diet.  Daily blood sugar levels need to be checked and recorded.  Moderate exercise (30 minutes a day) improves glucose control, as well.  And, occasionally, if glucose levels continue to be elevated despite altering diet, an oral hypoglycemic (sugar-lowering) medication, or rarely insulin injections, may need to be used.  The bottom line is that it is very important to be in close contact with your practitioner regarding your blood sugar levels so that the risks to the developing baby are minimized.

How can gestational diabetes affect an unborn baby?

If a woman’s sugar/glucose levels are well-controlled, there are very few risks to the fetus.  The big risks come when a woman does not control her daily blood sugars.  If a mother has chronically elevated blood glucose levels, the glucose crosses the placenta and leads to elevated glucose levels in the baby as well.  This can lead to a number of problems for the fetus and newborn baby including:

1) macrosomia (large birth weight)

2) birth trauma (shoulder dystocia-a large baby has a hard time fitting through the birth canal and can get stuck)

3) increased risk of Cesarean delivery

4) increased risk of stillborn

5) increased risk of low blood sugar after birth, jaundice, newborn seizures, and respiratory problems.

There are also risks to the newborn later in life such as an increased risk of developing obesity, type II diabetes, developmental delays and heart disease.  This is why it is so critical that a woman diagnosed with gestational diabetes be followed closely with a strict diet and occasionally, oral medication or even insulin.

What happens after pregnancy?

After pregnancy, the culprit (the placenta) has been removed and in almost all cases, a woman’s blood sugar goes back down to normal.  Every woman that had gestational diabetes, however, should have another screening test done at 6 to 10 weeks post delivery called a 2 hour glucose tolerance test.  This test is done to ensure that a woman’s metabolism of sugar has returned to normal.

Two key points to remember however, are 1) that there is a 33 to 50% chance of developing gestational diabetes in a subsequent pregnancy, and 2) there is an increased lifetime risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.  It is very important to live a healthy lifestyle including eating a well-rounded diet, getting regular exercise and continuing with annual health care exams.

Read more about gestational diabetes at Parents.com:

Early Detection: Gestational Diabetes & Preeclampsia

Gestational Diabetes Facts

Prenatal Testing Basics: Glucose Screening and Glucose Tolerance Testing

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  1. by Lisa

    On July 13, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Here is something that I don’t understand: The nurse said that they don’t like to see babies get that big. I have 4 children and have a history of delivering large babies. My first was 9 lbs. 10 oz., my second was 8 lbs. 7 oz, third was 9 lbs. 7 oz., and my last (born last January) was 10 lbs. 4 oz. I did not have gestational diabetes with my first 3, but was borderline with my last. I failed my first “sugar” test and went back for a 3 hour glucose. It was borderline, so I wasn’t diagnosed with gestational diabetes. My OB knew that my daughter would have a large birth weight, because my previous children had been bigger and they were all delivered at 38 weeks. For the duration of my pregnancy, I was told that I would be induced at 38 weeks, for that reason. When my 38th week rolled around, I was then informed that my OB could not induce before 39 weeks, unless it was medically necessary. I went into labor, on my own, at exactly 39 weeks and delivered (not a c-section) a 10 lb. baby. So here is what I don’t understand; if a baby of that size is dangerous, then how was it NOT medically necessary for me to be induced before 38 weeks. I just think if the doctor knew that this lady would deliver a large baby, why let her go that long?

  2. by Becki

    On July 13, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    You had a large baby but not too big. That is a 6 lb difference. It is better to go on your own and not be induced. A good healthy baby should weigh between 8-10 lbs.

  3. by Melissa

    On July 13, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    @Lisa

    My guess is that the mom had no prenatal care at all during her pregnancy. There’s no way a Dr would let it go this long… and when my youngest was born, 2 years ago, they knew how big he was nearly to the oz through ultrasounds. If she was that huge, they would have C-sectioned her long before.

  4. by jennifer

    On July 13, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    it just depends on the babys positin they said in another story accordng to ultrasounds he was about 12 lbs. my dr did the same thing at my 38 week appt we did an ultrasound and he said my daughter was nine pounds or more. four days later i delivered a 7lb 2 oz 18 inch little girl my dr was off on all measurements

  5. by Janice

    On July 13, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    @ Lisa every woman is different and although the average healthy baby is born weighing between 7-9lbs some women tend to have small babies and others tend to have large babies. Although what they do to measure is not always as accurate as Melissa got, I agree that if she had prenatal care they would have delivered the baby as soon as the lungs were developed. She basically delivered a 6 month old!

  6. by Jenna

    On July 13, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    I’m glad there is a focus that this is not ideal! Parents should be educated that it’s not good for the baby to have a poorly controlled gestational diabetic mom, he wasn’t 16 lbs because he’s going to be a football player, he was 16 lbs because his mom’s blood sugar was not properly regulated. When I was pregnant with our twins I was a borderline gestational diabetic and was therefore put on a strict diet and insulin to manage my sugar, I never cheated on my eating, and my girls were born healthy and happy.

  7. by andrea

    On July 13, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    @Lisa, I agree with Becki that is a 6 pound difference, and in another woman’s world that is a whole other baby…lol. I believe that if you were in any danger what so ever, your Doc would have let you know and/or let you deliver earlier.

    @melissa, I agree that some sonographers can get a really good reading into the size of your baby, but it is not always that accurate as Janice stated. They told me my daughter was going to be 8 pounds, and she was born at 6 punds 3 ounces.

    No one knows what kind of medical care she had, and she may not have shown the diabetes in her test hen she did it, but later developed…no one knows what her situation is so please stop trying to analize. She may have had the very best medical care, but they missed it or something who knows. This woman had a very large child, he is healthy, and that is all that matters :)

  8. by Lauren

    On July 13, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    @Becki – A healthy baby is not between 8-10lbs, those are considered large babies. A healthy baby averages between 6-9 lbs. Just b/c all of my friends had 9-10 lb babies this year does not mean that my 6 lb 13 oz baby was underweight – she was perfect.

    @everyone else If you read the original article, this woman did have prenatal care, but ultrasounds and a doctor feeling your stomach and even your measurements cannot accurately determine a baby’s size.

    All I know, is that if this was my child, I would have been humiliated and would not have let his picture be plastered all over the news like this. How embarrassing.

  9. by Jade

    On July 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    It is just great that the baby is healthy. I cannot imagine carrying a child that large! My daughter was less than half the weight of this baby, and by 39 weeks I thought I’d had it! I had GD, but I never cheated on my diet, checked my blood sugar 3-6 times every day, and exercised daily until it literally pained me to walk to the mailbox. Though I knew well-controlled GD posed minimal risks to my baby, I was still scared to death.

  10. by Kelly

    On July 13, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    @Lauren,
    Humiliated? And for what reason? I’m sorry, but to me that statement does not seem fair. There is nothing about that baby to be humiliated about. We don’t know how or why this child got so big. We can’t know for sure it was “her fault”.

  11. by Mandi

    On July 13, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    A. Why do people read articles like this and suddenly become medical experts themselves? It’s an interesting article. I hope it is helpful to some people, but it really isn’t worth all the… I’m going to call it arguing, but I’m sure someone will respond with the ole No No! We’re just having a discussion! which is what I say to my husband when I don’t realize my voice is getting loud. Haha!

    2. What got me was that the hospital didn’t have a diaper big enough… Not one larger diaper in the whole hospital? What do they do when an older baby is admitted to the hospital? I’d be upset that I had to run home or to the store to grab diapers during an emergency… You’d think they would stock all sizes to at least hold you over until you were able to get your own.

    D. Did anyone else do an “Ah ha!” when realizing the baby’s name was a combo of the parents’ names?

  12. by Anon

    On July 13, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    I am thinking maybe the mom was a larger woman? It is VERY difficult to use sono equipment on very overweight patients. This could have greatly impacted the ability of the caretakers to realize how big the baby was prior to delivery. But Janet and Michael having a baby named JaMichael?! Wow – that is the craziest part of the story for me.

  13. by Marie

    On July 14, 2011 at 12:24 am

    I am petite– 5’2 and was at a healthy weight before pregnancy. I had gained 45lbs by the end of my pregnancy though. I had ultrasounds throughout my pregnancy due to possible heart issues, so we were well aware of his size the whole time. The US Tech estimated he was 11lbs. Me being stubborn and believing that they had to be waaay off, tried to have him naturally. SO, went in to get induced and after 34 hours of labor, I never dialated more than 3cm. Of course I ended up having the c-section, and they were dead on… 11lbs. Tested several times for GD, always came back NEGATIVE! Who woulda thought.

  14. by Mari

    On July 14, 2011 at 10:19 am

    When I hear “I never dialated passed X cm during labor” it reminds me that the hospital labor/delivery system has much room for improvement. It seems like “not dilating” is a common reason for surgery these days, contributing greatly to our approximately 30% C-section rate. But 30% of women are not broken and wouldn’t have died in childbirth prior to C-section becoming common. The problem is the non-evidence based practices in hospitals, not our bodies.

  15. by Lauren

    On July 14, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    @kelly – It was GD and an improper diet.
    it may be wrong to judge people, but tell me…who right now isn’t judging this woman for having a child this size? Plus I wouldn’t want my kid growing up being known as the “biggest baby in Texas.”

    oh yeah, and it’s my opinion…you get to have your own…so leave me to mine

  16. by Renee

    On July 16, 2011 at 1:39 am

    That’s just crazy cant believe the baby was 16lbs. I wonder if she was careless about having gestational diabetes or just what thank godness she had a c section.. i myself had gestational diabetes and I’m a plus size woman and delivered a 7 lb 4 oz baby healthy so ya. But do agree wouldnt want to be known as the biggest baby in texas.

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  19. by jeannie

    On December 18, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    Is it just me or are bigger babies on the rise? Both of my girls were bigger than average. 9# 15 oz and 9# 13 oz, 21 inches long. But then I am 6 feet tall. I suffered from no complications and managed 2 all natural deliveries.
    Every baby is different, every pregnancy is different and every mother is different too. If I managed to carry a child that large and broke some records, I would be on the news too. So long as mother and baby are healthy and happy, who’s to complain?

  20. by Picture editor

    On January 20, 2012 at 3:00 am

    What a huge baby! So lovely and innocent:)

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