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Problems Later in Life With Large Birth Weight Babies

by Sharon Perkins , studioD

"What does the baby weigh?" is often the second question new parents ask, right after "Is it a boy or girl?" Some cultures applaud big babies, but a baby who is large-for gestational-age, or LGA, often faces a lifetime of weight and health issues. Around 8 percent of newborns top the scale at more than 4,000 grams, or 8 pounds, 13 ounces, according to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; most are born to overweight or obese moms with gestational or Type 2 diabetes.

Overweight or Obesity

Hefty newborns grow up to be overweight or obese children and adults, in many cases. In a Chinese study published in the 2000 "International Journal of Obesity," a birth weight greater than 4,000 grams was a major risk factor for childhood obesity. In LGA babies, the risk for childhood obesity increased from 8 to 26 percent. A March 2003 article published in "Pediatrics" noted that each 2.2 pound increase in birth weight increased the risk of adolescent overweight by 40 percent if their mothers were also overweight. But for LGA infants born to normal-weight mothers, the risk of overweight in adolescence dropped to 20 percent.


An LGA baby who becomes overweight as a child, adolescent or adult is at increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes -- once known as adult-onset diabetes, because it rarely affected children-- that develops in childhood or adolescence often progresses rapidly, due to late diagnosis, changing insulin requirements in adolescence and poor treatment compliance. Both overweight and genetic predisposition play a part in the development of type 2 diabetes, the Merck Manual reports.

Heart Disease

You might think of heart disease as a disorder of adulthood, but the seeds of heart disease are often sown in childhood and adolescence. As many as 49 percent of overweight teens and 61 percent of obese teens have at least one risk factor for heart disease, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published in the May 2012 issue of "Pediatrics." Risk factors include diabetes or pre-diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure.

Combatting the Problem

Large babies born to normal-weight parents have less risk of developing weight problems, which lead to a multitude of health issues, than those whose parents are overweight or obese. Parental overweight is the main risk factor for overweight in childhood; 80 percent of obese 10- to 14-year-olds with obese parents will be obese as adults, the University of Rochester explains. Reducing your own risks by losing weight, exercising more and eating a healthier diet can also reduce your child's risk of serious health problems at a young age and all the way through adulthood.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

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