Large for gestational age (LGA) is
used to describe newborn babies who weigh more than usual for the number of weeks of
pregnancy. Babies may be called large for gestational age if they weigh more than 9 in
10 babies (90th percentile) or more than 97 of 100 babies (97th percentile) of the same
gestational age. This is based on U.S. statistics from 1991. About 1 in 10 babies born
at 40 weeks’ gestation in the U.S. in 1991 weighed more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces (4,000
grams) at birth. Three in 100 babies weighed more than 9 pounds, 11 ounces 4,400
Babies born earlier than 40 weeks are considered LGA at lighter weights. Babies born after 40 weeks are considered LGA at slightly higher weights. Overall, babies born in the U.S. in recent years weigh a little more than they used to. Normal ranges for birth weight may also be different, based on ethnic background.
Some babies are large because their parents are large. Parents may pass along this trait to their children. A high birth weight can also be related to the amount of weight a mother gains during pregnancy. Women who gain a lot of weight during pregnancy often give birth to babies who are large for gestational age.
Diabetes in the mother is the most common cause of babies who are large for gestational age. When a pregnant woman has high blood sugar, she can pass that along to her baby. In response, the baby’s body makes insulin. All the extra sugar and the extra insulin that is made can lead to fast growth and deposits of fat. This means a larger baby. It also means a risk for low blood sugar right after birth. At that point, the mother’s supply is no longer there, but the baby’s insulin levels stay high.
If a baby is too large to fit through the birth canal easily, birth can be difficult. Problems at birth may include:
- Long time for delivery
- Difficult birth
- Injury to the baby, such as a broken collar bone or damaged nerves in the arm (brachial plexus)
- Increased need for a cesarean section delivery
Many large babies are born to mothers with diabetes. Poor control of blood sugar may cause problems such as:
- Low blood sugar in the baby in the
first several hours after birth
- A higher risk for birth defects
- Trouble breathing
Babies who are large for gestational age may also be more likely to have yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes (jaundice).
Babies may be called large for gestational age if they weigh more than 9 in 10 babies or 97 of 100 babies of the same gestational age. In the U.S., this means babies born at 40 weeks’ gestation who weigh more than 8 pounds 13 ounces (4,000 grams) or 9 pounds, 11 ounces (4,400 grams) at birth.
Babies with this problem are often
diagnosed before birth. During pregnancy, a baby’s size can be estimated in different
ways. The height of the top of a mother’s uterus can be measured from the pubic bone.
This measurement in centimeters usually links with the number of weeks of pregnancy
after the 20th week. If this measurement is high for the number of weeks, the baby may
be larger than expected. Before the baby is born, healthcare providers use the term
fetal macrosomia instead of LGA.
Other ways to check the baby’s growth before birth include:
Ultrasound.This test uses sound waves to create a picture of your baby and the inside of
your body. It is a more accurate method of estimating the size of your baby, but it’s
still not exact. Measurements can be taken of your baby’s head, belly (abdomen), and
upper leg bone to see how fast he or she is growing.
during pregnancy. This can also affect your baby’s size. Gaining a lot
of weight during pregnancy may cause your baby to be bigger than normal.
Babies are weighed within the first few hours after birth. The weight is compared with the baby’s gestational age and recorded in the medical record.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health.
If ultrasound exams during pregnancy show that your baby is very large, your healthcare provider may recommend early delivery. You may need a planned cesarean section.
After birth, a baby who is large
for gestational age will be carefully checked for any injuries that happened during
birth. Your baby may have blood glucose testing for at least the first 12 hours to check
for low blood sugar.
Babies who are large for
gestational age are at higher risk for a breathing problem called respiratory distress
syndrome. They also may be at risk of breathing meconium into the lungs around the time
Birth injuries such as a broken
collar bone or damaged nerves in the arm (brachial plexus) are more common in babies who
are very large for gestational age. These babies also may need to stay in neonatal
intensive care because of breathing problems, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), or both.
The risk for problems increases as the birth weight increases. The risks are highest for
babies who weight more than 9 pounds 15 ounces (4,500 grams).
LGA babies are more likely to have an excessive amount of red blood cells (polycythemia). As these red blood cells break down, their livers may not be able to handle the increased about of bilirubin needing to be conjugated. This may result in high levels of bilirubin in the blood resulting in jaundice.
Regular prenatal care is important in all pregnancies. Regular checkups can help your healthcare provider find out how your baby is growing. If your baby seems large, it may be a sign that you have undetected diabetes or other problems. To lower some of the risks to your baby:
- Take care of your diabetes
- Watch your weight
- Follow your healthcare provider’s advice
- Babies are called large for gestational age if they weigh more than expected for their gestational age (weeks of pregnancy) at birth.
- Diabetes is the most common cause of babies who are large for gestational age.
- If a baby is too large to fit through the birth canal easily, delivery can be difficult.
- If ultrasound exams during pregnancy show a baby is very large, your healthcare provider may recommend early delivery.
- Regular prenatal checkups can help your healthcare provider find out if your baby is too large.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
- Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.
- Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.