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Health & Pregnancy

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Excess Weight, Diabetes Raise Risk of Big Babies

Even Overweight Women Without Gestational Diabetes at Risk of Delivering Large Babies, Researchers Found

Weight, Diabetes, and Large Babies: Perspective

The findings echo those published earlier this year by Ravi Retnakaran, MD, a clinician scientist at Mount Sinai Hospital and an associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto. "This is showing that the predominant determinant of risk of having a large-for-gestational-age baby is maternal obesity and overweight," he says.

The recent research findings, he says, do not mean blood sugar levels aren't important to monitor during pregnancy. "It's not saying don't treat gestational diabetes," he says.

The study adds to growing evidence that excess weight and diabetes during pregnancy increase the risk of having a large baby, says Jennifer Wu, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

Large babies carry risks for mother and infant, Wu says. "For the babies, there is the risk of the shoulders getting stuck [during delivery]. For the mothers, there are more risks of cesarean section or large lacerations with vaginal delivery." Babies born too large are also at increased risk of having birth defects and breathing problems, and some studies have found links to cancer, diabetes, and heart disease later in life.

What isn't clear from either study, Retnakaran says, is how much excess weight is too much.

For that reason, he says, the best advice for now is this: "Women should be looking at entering pregnancy at their ideal weight." A healthy weight is defined as a body mass index or BMI of 18.5 to 24.9.

A 5-foot-4-inch woman who weighs 120 pounds has a BMI of 20.6, for instance.

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