Maintaining Optimum Baby Weight Throughout Pregnancy
Most pregnant women have always sought for ways to keep themselves in checks so as to have a baby that is not overweight or underweight.
Most of the times, the measures they apply is detrimental to their health and that of the baby.
In the light of this, I decided to consult Doctor Freky Yong on this matter, so as to help enlighten and educate the masses out there on how to ensure and maintain an optimum baby weight during pregnancy. This is what she has to say:
What is Optimum Baby Weight at birth?
Before we get to talking about how to maintain or achieve optimum baby weight, we have to look at baby weight and the acceptable range of child birth weight for the new born.
A baby’s weight is a reflection of the baby’s growth/nutrition in the uterine environment.
The normal birth weight for babies born at term (37-42 weeks) ranges from 2500g (5 pounds, 8 ounces) to 400g (8 pounds, 13 ounces).
A baby’s birth weight below 2500g is said to be low birth weight, very low birth weight being less than 1500. Babies weighing more than 400g are said to be large for age (macrosomia).
If your baby is weighing less or more than the average this does not necessarily imply that there’s something wrong with your baby, the physician will only give the baby extra attention after delivery to ensure there are no problems.
Hence, that is not a cause to panic as a normal baby can weigh less or more than normal.
The Following Are Factors Which Affects the baby’s size at Birth
- Gestational Age at birth: Children born at term or close to term tend to weigh more than those born earlier
- Genetics/heredity: Some families generally have smaller babies; however, the mother’s birth weight largely affects the baby’s weight.
- Pre-Pregnancy weight: Women with BMI less than 19kg/m2 before pregnancy are more at risk of having low birth weight infants. In contrast, women who are overweight (BMI greater than 24kg/m2 have an increased risk of having larger babies.
- Birth Order: First babies tend to be smaller than siblings born subsequently.
- Gender: Girls tend to be smaller than boys although this difference is slight.
- Mother’s Nutrition During Pregnancy: Good nutrition ensures growth of the baby and vice versa.
- Number of Fetuses: In multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets and higher other births), the average birth weight is usually less than that of a single fetus.
- Mother’s health during pregnancy: Women with chronic medical conditions like hypertension, anaemia etc. tend to have smaller babies. Mothers with gestinal diabetes mellitus (GDM) are likely to have larger babies.
The above are only factors that affects the weight of the new born baby. Now we want to deliberate on the…
Major Causes of Low Birth Weight
- Preterm Delivery: Delivery of a baby after age of fetal viability (22- 28 weeks) but before term (37weeks). Preterm delivery is caused by the following factors: Multiple pregnancy, previous preterm births, active smoking during pregnancy, infections like chorioamnionitis or urinary tract infection, uterine fibroid, cervical incompetencePoor Growth of the Baby: This could be due to
- Poor maternal nutrition during pregnancy, maternal medical conditions like anaemia, preeclampsia, eclampsia.
- Smoking and alcohol intake: Intake of drugs like cocaine, amphetamines, isotretinoin, phenytoin etc.
- Congenital infections/defects: Infections like malaria, syphilis, TORCHES syndrome congenital heart defects. Chromosomal abnormalities example Down’s syndrome, Turners Syndrome.
Low birth weight babies are more prone to developing diseases such as hypertension, type II DM, coronary artery disease, cerebral palsy, vision & hearing loss as well as slower cognitive & motor development.
Now that we have given due considerations to the major causes of low birth weight, lets also discuss…
The causes of large birth Weight:
Mothers weight: An obese mother or a mother who has gained excess weight during pregnancy tends to have larger babies.
- Previous history of macrosomia– having a previous big baby, increases the risk of having another big one by 5 to 10 percent.
- Maternal conditions like gestational diabetes Mellitus: Children of Diabetic mothers tend to be larger than children of non-diabetic mothers. At full term, Large babies are associated with obstetric complications such as prolonged labor, birth injuries, perineal tears/lacerations. Mothers of such babies face increased risk of delivery via caesarean section. Overweight babies tend to have chronic medical conditions and obesity later in life, if not given proper medical attention.
Now that we have successfully covered what birth weight is normal and also the major causes and factors which affects both overweight and underweight infants, let’s look at what is required of us for ensuring that our babies have the optimum birth weight possible.
How to Ensure Normal Baby Birth Weight
Maintain healthy weight gain & good nutrition: The average weight a pregnant woman is expected to gain is 10 to 12 kg. Good nutrition is important for the baby’s growth especially in the first trimester. To know more about diets that will help maintain proper weight gain see article on healthy diets for pregnant women.
- Make Significant Lifestyle Changes: As a pregnant woman, you need to stop smoking and taking alcohol, because these substances are known to increase the risk of having a Low Birth Weight infant. Learn to minimize stress and also have sufficient sleep, this will have a significant benefit on the growing fetus.
- Start Antenatal Care Early: This is very important as medical conditions like GDM, Preeclampsia can be detected early and managed properly. Also during the antenatal visits, the doctor will evaluate you and also monitor your growing child to ensure proper fetal development and growth.
- Treatment of Pre-existing Medical Conditions: mothers with chronic medical conditions like DM, sickle cell anaemia, kidney problems etc. should access specialist care and control these conditions satisfactorily before, during, and after pregnancy. Treatment should also cover malaria and other infections that could cause your baby not to grow well or develop congenital abnormalities.
- Discontinue Use of drugs like cocaine, amphetamines, steroids, hydration, phenytoin mercury etc. should be discontinued as they affect the baby’s growth negatively.
With the tips given above, you should ultimately maintain an optimum weight for your infant.