Surprising Ways Your Birth Weight Can Affect Your Health

Healthy newborns come in a variety of shapes and sizes; usually, they range in weight from 5.5 to 8.8 pounds. Roughly 10% of babies are born underweight, with the risks being well-known (per ScienceDaily). Such babies may be more prone to diseases and infections in early life, and may even be faced with longer-term difficulties, including learning disabilities or delayed social and motor development (per MedlinePlus). According to some research reported by ScienceDaily, underweight babies may even be more likely to become obese in later life. Often, babies are born underweight due to genetics, health problems or malnutrition in the mother, problems with the placenta, or maternal drug use.

People tend to focus more on underweight than overweight babies, which is understandable because low birth weight is a common problem worldwide. However, more and more American babies have been born with a high body weight in the past several decades (per LiveScience). According to MedlinePlus, babies are sometimes born with a high weight due to genetic factors, parental obesity, or maternal health problems such as diabetes.

There are several risks to being born with a high body weight

If a baby weighs more than ten pounds, it is not difficult to imagine how this may increase the risk of birth injuries. For example, the baby's shoulders may become trapped during childbirth, in an incident that may damage the baby's collarbones, arms, neck, or even brain. In addition, if the baby is born to a mother with gestational diabetes, the newborn may need to be monitored closely for proper blood sugar levels. The baby may also be prone to jaundice and, in later life, diabetes and weight problems (per LiveScience).

Another possible side effect of high birth weight that may be more surprising was described in a study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. This study found that every additional 2 pounds at birth correlated with a 44% increased risk of food allergy, as well as an increased risk of experiencing rashes after being exposed to an allergen.

With all of this in mind, it remains as important as ever to maintain a healthy diet and keep watch of your health during pregnancy. While an abnormal birth weight cannot be prevented in all cases, the risk can be reduced by eating healthily, making sure you gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy, and working with your doctor to control any health problems you may have.