Miranda Kerr gave birth to a baby weighing almost ten pounds without pain medication or other interventions. Kerr wrote on her website, “I did natural birth too, no drugs or pain killers!!! Love Miranda xxx.”
I’m not saying this to set the bar high and make everyone feel bad who doesn’t jump for joy at the idea of pushing a ten-pound baby out without pain medication. I don’t care how you cope with pain. I’m saying this because, despite what many women are told these days, it’s possible to give birth to a dreaded “big baby.”
There is a persistent myth circulating about the big babies and birth, and it’s doing such a disservice to pregnant women. You hear all the time, Oh…. it’s a big baby. You know what that means: a c-section is coming down the pike. But are c-sections really necessary for big babies? And are there really so many big babies these days as to justify the medical interventions required to pry them out? Here’s what you need to know:
1. The size of a baby, as predicted by sonogram, is wildly unreliable.
The guesses should not even be attempted as they can be as much as two pounds off either way.
2. It’s not the size (in almost all cases). It’s the positioning.
Even if the baby is big, there’s no way to predict how this will affect labor. In most cases, it’s not the size of the baby or the size of the pelvis that matters. It’s the way the baby and pelvis work together in labor. And this is something you can only know in labor. The way your hips and positioning work is not something a doctor can tell you by looking at you. It’s not something you can know from having a big husband or being petite. Miranda Kerr is a slim-hipped model. Even small women are able to give birth to large babies. So the idea that in advance of birth a midwife or doctor can call “big baby” and order up some medical maneuvers– maybe an early induction so that baby doesn’t grow anymore– may be an invitation for unnecessary risk. Too often you hear of a c-section called because the baby was big and then the baby comes out at 7 pounds 8 ounces (the average size). Even when the baby is big, it’s usually a combination of factors that lead to the surgery, not just size alone.
There can be times when positioning is not working for birth, no matter how much mom is moving and squatting. Sometimes the baby is breach or transverse or even just at an odd angle unfavorable for a vaginal birth. In these cases surgery may be the option with the fewest risks involved.
3. The reality of a truly big baby can happen but it’s not as common as we’re led to believe.
Now, real cases of very big babies do exist. There is something called impending fetal macrosemia; the baby has grown too big for a safe vaginal birth, basically. These babies are sometimes called “sugar soaked” as they’re usually born to obese mothers with severe diabetes. Even in those cases, it’s not that common. Macrosemia usually necessitates c-section; the risk is that the baby’s body is larger than the head and may get stuck. A scary image I know, but wait, this is not what’s happening to most women. Or to Miranda Kerr. She just had a big, healthy baby like many women do.
4. Your pelvis is loose and the baby’s head is soft.
During pregnancy, the hormone relaxin loosens and softens joints and ligaments, allowing the pelvis to literally open up. The baby’s skull plates are also soft and movable so that the baby’s head can mold to the shape of the mother’s pelvis as it passes through. Changing positions during labor can help also help a baby descend. Our perineum is stretchy; our muscles strong and flexible.
I’m not saying that getting babies out is always (or ever!) no biggie. Groan. It’s hard, it’s painful– we are definitely moving something large through a small space. It’s really understandable to fear a big baby. I wrote about it yesterday, it’s very common. Even six pounds can seem too big. I know mothers who have had twelve and eleven pound babies with some serious work involved. But I also know mothers who, if left to labor on their own without interventions, find that the size doesn’t matter. My nearly nine-pound girl was born in a couple of hours with no tears or much assistance at all. My perfectly average seven-pound son took a lot more work and wear. But there are so many factors that go into long, short, easy, hard, surgical and vaginal births; I don’t want to be overly reductive here. Lots of women are told they had trouble because the baby was “big” and that could well be true. Or it could be an easier explanation than the complicated one or the one that includes the words, “we really don’t know why the labor didn’t progress.”
But if you’re pregnant and worried about having a big baby, please be reassured that size on its own is most often nothing more than a sign that you have a robust, healthy baby. Try to keep an open mind about birth going in; focus on those loose hips, changing positions as much as possible and seeking out the support it takes to manage pain in labor.
photo : Charles Norfleet / PR Photos