The Pros and Cons of Big Babies

Reporter: Shannon Samson

A newborn in Brazil tipped the scales at 16 pounds four ounces when he came into the world on January 18th.

While this extraordinary birth made headlines all over the world, it came at a price for the boy and his 38-year-old mother. Both suffered complications, ones that we aren't that uncommon here in he U.S. either.


That's how Corydon, Kentucky resident Teria Mitchell describes the birth of her fourth son. At eight months, a sonogram showed he was already up to ten pounds in utero. "I couldn't tie my shoes, put them on, take a bath, shave my legs. You name it."

And she named him Keshtun after doctors delivered him via Caesarean section at 36 weeks. So he was a preemie and spent five days in intensive care, even though he weighed eleven pounds four ounces.

The average baby in the U.S. weighs seven pounds 14 ounces. Babies closest to that ideal tend to do the best, but Dr. Donn Slovachek says, "Some babies being 10 pounds is what they were supposed to grow to. Other babies, being 5 1/2 pounds is what they were supposed to grow to. So the idea in obstetrics is you want the kid to grow to its potential. The problem is, you never really know what that potential is."

Babies born to mothers with gestational diabetes have the potential to grow very large, as was the case in Brazil. That baby had breathing difficulties and low blood glucose levels at birth. Oversized babies are also at risk for birth injuries if they're delivered vaginally. The alternative is C-section, which brings the same risks as any surgery.

But the good news is... Most moms with gestational diabetes can control it with diet and exercise. As for moms who don't have the disease, there's really nothing they can do to control the size of their babies. Dr. Slovachek says, "For a lot of patients, all it means is that you had a big baby. That's the way it came out."

And it's all turning out fine for Kesthun Mitchell. At six weeks, he may be big for his age, but he's healthy. Up to five percent of all pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. Usually, it goes away as soon as the baby is born, but half will develop diabetes later in life. Getting back to a healthy weight after pregnancy helps. But that's easier said than done.

By the way, that 16 pound baby in Brazil is not the record. That honor goes to an Italian mother who had a 22 pound baby in 1955.