Having a baby whose weight falls beneath the average range of 6-9 pounds poses some potential health risks. Birthing a baby who weighs more than 9 pounds can cause problems too, for both baby and mother. Women who gain large amounts of weight during pregnancy or have diabetes are more likely to give birth to high-birthweight babies. Although most of these babies are born healthy--women around the world have vaginally delivered babies of 9, 10, and 11 pounds without problems--birth-related complications can include a prolonged labor, intolerance to labor, shoulder dystocia, and neonatal low blood sugar.
If your provider suspects a large baby, she may suggest an ultrasound. An ultrasound will allow your provider to measure the diameter and circumference of your baby's head--the biggest part of him--and to estimate your baby's birthweight within half a pound. However, unless you or your baby seems to be suffering a medical complication, your provider probably won't do anything to induce your labor if your cervix isn't ready. That's because ultrasound measurements only offer estimates of a baby's size; labor is the only true test of whether your baby is too big to move safely through your birth canal. Many petite women give birth to 9-pound babies (or larger) vaginally. Likewise, some large women have pelvises too narrow to accommodate even a 7-pound baby.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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