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Baby Size Do Matters


Henny makes sure television programmes get broadcast on time - it is part of her job. However, when it came to her baby's birth schedule, the 2'7-year-old television broadcast scheduler could not be so spot-on. She checked into the labor ward a full week before her due date. She recalled: "My gynaecologist told me I had to have induced labor, because if I had waited any longer, my baby might get even bigger and I might experience difficulties during delivery, and would possibly need a Caesarean section."

Despite the headstart, Henny didn't quite manage to have the smooth delivery she was hoping for. Her baby had to be taken out using forceps and vacuum - the two techniques of assisted delivery. Her six-month-old son, Mika, weighed g.6kg at birth. Genes, of course, will determine a baby's size. Generally, larger mothers have larger children. And baby boys and Caucasian babies tend to be bigger.

Overall though, the mother's health and lifestyle have a bigger impact on a baby's size than genes. Gynaecologists say today's babies are chubbier than those in the past generation, thanks to their mothers, who enjoy a richer - but not necessarily healthier - diet. Babies weighing more than 3.6kg at birth are at increased risk of birth injury due to the difficulty in delivering the shoulder. These birth injuries include shoulder fractures and injury to nerves,  says expert.

Henny reckons her son had grown so big due to a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. The young mother, who stands at nearly 1.7m, confesses: "I put on 20kg during pregnancy. I ate whatever I like on the pretext that I should pamper myself!" She's not the only one many pregnant women tend to binge on sugary and fried foods, which contain "empty calories".

Expert says such food does not have additional value apart from carbohydrates. A pregnant mother needs to consume only an extra 200 calories a day. A healthy weight gain during pregnancy should be between I2kg and I5kg. Expectant mums should eschew junk food and go for fresh food like bread and fruit to have a healthier baby. Doing low-impact exercises like walking, swimming and yoga also helps them and their babies stay in the pink of health, expert says.

Bigger babies can mean bigger problems. One common pregnancy-induced problem is diabetes. Mothers, who are diagnosed with diabetes, have been found to have bigger babies, because of a higher sugar content circulating in their blood stream. Surprisingly, babies with lower birth weights - below 2.4kg - are at a higher risk of becoming obese in their  adolescence and adulthood than those with higher birth weight.

It happens because foetuses, who had been starved in the womb, tend to develop metabolic problems. These lead to obesity as well as diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart attack. Apart from body issues, smaller babies are also likelier to suffer from mental and emotional problems.

Expert warns: "Long-term complications include brain injury, depression and even suicide." Underweight babies can end up being delivered prematurely or stillborn. A baby's growth is stunted when he does not get enough oxygen and nutrients. This happens when the placenta fails to do its job, and it can occur when a mother's womb is not properly developed. For example, the umbilical cord is not inserted into the placenta optimally. 

Illnesses and infections can also result in smaller babies. Expert remind women who are planning to have a baby to have their immunisation jabs before pregnancy. In addition, a common pregnancy-induced illness to watch for is high blood pressure. Many mothers with high blood pressure give birth to smaller babies.

A smaller baby can also be a product of a mother's diet and lifestyle. Apart from poor nutrition and a lack of rest, smoking, alcohol and drugs can deprive the baby of nutrients and cripple the placenta's functions. expert says: "Even passive smoking can affect the baby. If you're on medication, check with your doctor whether it's safe."

Expectant mums should go for regular checkups to ensure their babies are growing at a normal rate. A baby's growth in the first trimester is fairly consistent across the board, but in the second trimester, gynaecologists say there's a growth spurt and a mother's lifestyle very much impacts her baby's size. So remember: your baby is what you eat.

A Pregnant Mum's Guide To A Balanced Diet

Carbohydrates

What It's Good For: Energy. An extra 300 calories a day.

Found In: Rice, noodle, bread, potato and cereal. An extra half a bowl of rice for lunch and dinner, for example, would suffice.

Iron

What It's Good For: Sufficient red blood cells or haemogoblin to prevent anaemia. Extra iron can be stored to be used in the first six months of the baby's life.

Found In: Liver, meat, fish, eggs and beancurd, which are also good sources of protein (necessary for growth and repair of tissues that make up the heart, lungs, eyes, etc).Two servings a day. Wholegrain cereals and green leafy vegetables are also sources of iron.

Folic Acid

What It's Good For: Growth and reproduction of cells, which are the building blocks for tissues.

Found In: One serving of green, leafy vegetables a day provides sufficient folic acid and other vitamins, minerals and fibre. Liver, eggs, nuts, yeast extract, wholegrain cereals and oranges are also sources of folic acid.

Vitamin C

What It's Good For: Builds up the immune system

Found In: Fruits, especially oranges, guavas, papayas, kiwi fruits and lemons. Two servings a day. Vitamin C cannot be stored inside the body and needs to be replenished daily.

Calcium

What It's Good For: Development of a baby's bones and teeth.

Found In: Fish, milk, cheese or yoghurt. The calcium requirement for pregnant mums is 1g a day, which is about two to four servings of the above food items.

 

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