A BOOM in the number of overweight pregnant women in Scotland is leading to a rise in oversized babies.
NHS figures reveal 852 babies weighing 10lbs or more were born across the country last year – with some tipping the scales at more than 12lbs.
Babies weighing 9lbs 14oz or more are considered oversized – or macrosomic – by medical authorities in Scotland.
Health experts warn women who are overweight or obese can give birth to heavier babies because the foetus receives more sugar through the placenta.
They say overweight mums are at an increased risk of having a complicated pregnancy, including developing maternal diabetes, which affects around one in 20 pregnancies and can lead to a baby being born too large.
Oversized babies are at increased risk of stillbirth, getting stuck during delivery, and having a lifetime of health complications, including heart disease and diabetes.
Scotland’s heaviest baby in 2015 was born in the NHS Lanarkshire area weighing 13lb 1oz – almost double the size of an average newborn. NHS figures show that 852 babies weighing 10lbs or over were born in Scottish hospitals last year.
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Scotland’s largest health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, saw 236 macrosomic babies born, with around half born by C-section.
In NHS Lothian 168 babies were born weighing more than 10lbs. NHS Lanarkshire saw 75, NHS Grampian had 81 and there were 72 in NHS Ayrshire and Arran.
Of those births, around half were by C-section or assisted delivery, such as forceps, which can lead to increased health risks in unborn babies.
Gillian Smith, director for the Royal College of Midwives in Scotland, said bigger babies put increased pressure on midwives and doctors.
“The whole obesity thing is a big challenge, we need to get the message out there that if you are going to have a baby, you need to be a healthy weight before you start getting pregnant,” she said.
“In Scotland there has generally been a rise in big babies and there is no doubt that the rate of caesarian sections is also increasing. Unfortunately having a C-section can set a precedent for future pregnancies.
“There is also a higher stillbirth rate in pregnancies that follow on from a caesarian.
“There is no doubt that bigger babies put extra pressure, not just on midwives, but also on paediatricians, anaesthetists and obstetricians.”
Professor Naveed Sattar, NHS clinician and professor of metabolic medicine, said: “Pregnancy is a stress test of the body’s metabolism and
predominately, gestational diabetes is caused by higher levels of obesity in younger women.
“If the mum develops diabetes, high sugar levels can cross the placenta and enter the fetus, producing insulin, which then acts as a growth factor for the baby.”
Edinburgh’s heaviest new baby in 2015 weighed 12lb 9oz.
Tam Fry, spokesman for National Obesity Forum said: “We are past the stage we can make a joke about someone who is overweight, it has become a national crisis.
“Unfortunately we live in a culture that still celebrates big, fat babies. It is an extremely serious issue. A women of that size costs more to look after in pregnancy as it at a higher risk of C-section.
“It is a horrible situation, from school age onwards. Girls should be told that when they enter a pregnancy, they need to be a good, healthy weight.”
Frances McGuire, acting chief midwife for NHS Lothian, said: “We offer advice in the early stages of pregnancy about the importance of diet and of taking regular exercise.
“We also offer specialist services to mums with diabetes whose baby may be at risk.”