High Birth Weight Babies: Racial Risk Factors For Having a Large Baby

High birth weight babies will need to have their blood sugars tested. Photo by: Nevit Dilmen

Doctors test the blood sugar of high birth weight babies. Photo by: Nevit Dilmen

Babies born at more than 8.8 pounds are considered ‘high birth weight’ – how do you know if you’ll have a larger baby? There are three major risk factors to watch out for, according to a new study led by Dr. Katherine Bowers and Dr. Cuilin Zhang at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at the National Institutes of Health.

According to this study, pre-pregnancy body fat percentage, pregnancy weight gain, and gestational diabetes can all combine to increase the risk of babies being born at a high weight. Dr. Bowers and Dr. Zhang looked at 105,985 pregnancies in 2002. They wanted to know how these factors affected different races, something that researchers have not studied thoroughly before.

Race and Birth Weights

Dr. Zhang and Dr. Bowers found that pre-pregnancy body fat, pregnancy weight gain, and gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) were all independently found to have increased the likelihood of having a baby born with a higher birth weight across all races in both normal weight and under-weight women. Although these factors increased risk across all races, the degree of risk differed by race.

  • Non-Hispanic whites had an 11-fold increased risk of a high-birth-weight baby.
  • Non-Hispanic blacks had a seven times increased risk of giving birth to a larger baby.
  • Hispanic women had a ten times increased risk of higher-then-normal baby weight.

For these women, having all three of the factors drastically increased the risk for high birth weight babies. However, in Asian women, researchers found that when women had all three factors, they had the same increased risk if they had only two of the risk factors.

Interview with Dr. Zhang

Decoded Pregnancy had the opportunity to interview Dr. Zhang from the National Institutes of Health about the research and asked if there was one factor that contributed more to high birth weight babies than another risk factor. Dr. Zhang responded:

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“With regards to the magnitude of the association of these three factors with the risk of having a large baby, there is no evidence from the present study suggestive that one factor contributes more than the others. Only among Caucasian women, it seems that women who had GDM [Gestational Diabetes Mellitus] alone (but neither obese nor had excessive weight gain in pregnancy) were not significantly associated with an elevated risk for having a large baby. But, it should be noted that the number of these women are relatively small (N=668) as obese women in general have a greater risk of developing GDM in pregnancy.”

Click to Read Page Two: High Birth Weight Babies: Risks and Prevention

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