Just as you get pregnant, the amount of advice that comes flowing from left, right and center is endless.
‘You must eat for two’,
‘Take a smaller portion. You don’t want a giant baby’,
‘Avoid junk food. Why not order a salad?’,
‘Have another serving. Do you want a small baby?’,
‘Your belly looks small. You must eat more.’
The advice leaves a mother in a fix. But does a mother really have any control over her baby’s size? Has your diet got anything to do with the size of your baby? Does eating more help the baby put on weight? Or does dieting keep the baby tiny? Let’s find out.
How much should my baby weigh?
Experts say that on an average, the weight of an infant must usually be around 2,500 to 5,000 grams. Any baby who weighs more than 5,000 grams is said to be huge. However, having a big baby isn’t same as having an unhealthy baby. Neither would it lead to any birth complications always.
Link between mommy’s pregnancy weight and baby’s size
Your diet does determine the health of your baby and its size. But it is the quality and not the quantity of what you eat that hampers the size of the baby. This may also have an impact on the health and the metabolism of the baby in his adulthood.
- According to a study report published in The Lancet in 2010, women who gained more than 53 pounds have more than double the chances of carrying a heavy baby of over 8.8 pounds, than the women who gained something between 18 and 22 pounds.
- On the other hand, women who gained between 44 and 49 pounds were nearly twice as likely to have a heavy baby.
- If a mom gained more in one pregnancy than the other, the former baby is believed to be healthier.
So, mommy’s pregnancy weight does have a direct impact on the size of the baby.
Pregnancy factors that lead to heavier babies
Is it only your weight that determines the weight of your baby? No, there are several other factors too:
1. Blood sugar levels affect the baby size:
Women who have a higher BMI are believed to have a higher level of sugar in their blood. This is one major factor which determines the size of the baby. The sugar levels in the blood increase the production of insulin. This works as a growth hormone (1).
Women with Type 1 diabetes are at a higher risk of having a larger baby. However, when you work closely with your maternal fetal medicine doctor or an endocrinologist, you can ensure that you and your baby remain healthy.
Further Type 2 and gestational diabetes can be managed well with certain changes in diet and lifestyle. If you are able to maintain healthy glucose levels, your risk of having a big baby is significantly reduced. The risk of a big baby from Type 2 or gestational diabetes is majorly associated with higher blood sugar levels. When a woman begins her pregnancy at a healthy BMI, eats a healthy whole food diet and remains active throughout the pregnancy, her risk of acquiring gestational diabetes is massively reduced. So, make healthy choices and be assured that the risk of the larger baby will be reduced.
2. Maternal age:
Mothers who plan a baby post 35 usually have a larger baby (2). This is usually because of the medical conditions that become more prominent as you age. Teens, on the other hand, are at a risk of having a smaller baby.
3. Pre-existing medical conditions:
Medical conditions such as cardiac disease, diabetes, and anemia also have an effect on the size of the baby.
4. Pre-pregnancy weight:
Underweight women are at an increased risk of having a smaller baby while those with a higher BMI tend to have a larger baby.
Genes from both father and mother have an impact on the size of the baby.
You don’t have to eat for two just because another human being is inside you because the fetus you are carrying is not an adult and is just a tiny being. Based on the activity level and built, most females need about 1,400-2,200 calories on a daily basis. So, keep a check on your diet so as to avoid gaining weight more than necessary. Also, exercise regularly.