In 2010 I gave birth to my third baby at home, after a 90 minute labour.
The speedy labour wasn’t a surprise, as I’d previously experienced that with my second baby.
What was a surprise was my baby’s weight.
After previously giving birth to average sized babies of 3.5kg (7.7lbs) and 3.2 kgs (7lbs) each, I was more than a little shocked to see the number on the scale creep up to 5kgs (11lbs) – I had given birth to a ‘big baby’.
When you tell someone you’ve given birth to a baby of more than average size, you can pretty much guarantee the response.
There are winces, exclamations of ‘ouch’, and personal questions like ‘does everything still work down there?’
But what people don’t do is believe you when you say it actually didn’t hurt more.
No really – it doesn’t!
Why Bigger Babies Don’t Necessarily Hurt More
Here are 5 reasons why a bigger baby doesn’t have to mean more pain during childbirth.
#1: Ignorance Is Bliss
These days, it’s not uncommon for women to be told by their healthcare provider that they are carrying a big baby.
In many cases, this results in women leaving their care provider’s office, stressing about the impending birth of a baby elephant.
They may even be induced early, just in case, only to be shocked when their baby ends up average sized. Because guessing the weight of a baby is exactly that – a guess.
Instead of freaking out about the size of your baby, put your focus on learning about what boosts your potential for an enjoyable and positive natural birth.
Also, knowing what makes for an undisturbed labour can help you focus on how normal birth actually is.
#2: Babies Come In All Shapes And Sizes
A big baby doesn’t necessarily mean a really big head – or even a big body!
Big babies can be long and skinny and smaller babies can have big heads.
Many women are told they will need to be induced earlier than their due date, because their baby might get too large and not fit through the pelvis, or even get stuck.
In the last few weeks of pregnancy, your baby is putting on weight in the form of fat, which helps to keep him warm after he is born. The average weight gain each week in the last trimester is about 230grams (1/2 pound).
This increase in fat layers is important to remember. It’s not the bones of your baby’s skull or their body which is growing larger. Nor will your baby’s head gain a few pounds before birth, so you can breathe easy!
Bigger babies need time to mature and prepare for birth too – bigger doesn’t mean more mature. They all need the same time to develop and be ready for birth.
There are more than a few reasons why babies can get ‘stuck’ during labour.
#3: The Same Process Happens Regardless Of Size
Your body goes through exactly the same process of labour regardless of your baby’s size. In fact, the size of your baby has no influence whatsoever on the first stage of labour.
Your cervix doesn’t know there’s a 4.5kg (9.9lb) baby sitting on top of it. It has to fully dilate regardless! The head of your baby is the widest part, and no matter what size baby you are giving birth to, their heads are designed to mould and fit through your cervix.
Interestingly, mamas of larger babies report the second stage of labour is usually quite a lot easier than previous babies who were smaller. Some midwives say this is because the woman’s muscles can get a better grip on a larger baby to help push them out.
You might like to learn about your baby’s view of birth, and how they can actually help out during labour.
#4: Positioning Of Baby
Ensuring your baby’s position is optimal for birth can make a big difference to how challenging it will be, regardless of size.
The optimal position for birth is if your baby is head is down, chin tucked, with their face pointing toward your back. This position (or presentation, as it’s also called) creates the best fit, and the smallest diameter of skull leading through the birth canal.
A baby who isn’t in a good position can mean a longer and more painful labour, especially if they are posterior, which is the baby’s back against the mother’s back.
Read more about how fetal positioning can affect labour.
#5: Birth Position
Ok so you might think this isn’t really important, but the position you are in can make a major difference to how easy it is to give birth to a baby.
During the first stage of labour when your cervix is opening, you should be free to seek the positions and movements that help you during contractions.
If you stay in positions which allow gravity to help your baby moving downwards, your baby is more likely to stay in the optimal fetal position for birth. Being stuck in a bed, lying or semi-reclining, is counterproductive.
During the second stage, by being in a squatting position, your pelvic opening is able to shift an extra 30% (about 3cms). Your coccyx bone (the little tail bone on the end of your spine) is also pushed out of the way as your baby comes down.
Imagine how it might feel if you are lying on your back or sitting back on your bottom! You aren’t able to move easily and your pelvis is effectively in a fixed position.
In an upright position, such as hands and knees, squatting or a lunge, your pelvis is more flexible and you are able to move as you need to during contractions.
You are also less likely to tear in a more upright position, especially if you are being supported to work with your body and not rush your baby out.
Giving birth in an upright position has a lot of benefits.
So there you have it! Around 2% of babies in the United States and Australia have birthweights of over 4.5kgs (9.9lbs). Having a big baby doesn’t have to be the scary and terrifying experience it is made out to be.
If you are well informed about the normal labour process and choose a care provider who will support you, it can be a really amazing experience – and definitely one to impress the crowds with!