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Texas baby boy: How did he become so large?

The birth in Texas of 16-pound, 1-ounce JaMichael Brown, possibly the largest newborn the Lone Star state has ever seen, raises a few questions. For one, how can babies get so big?

According to reports, JaMichael’s size may stem in part from his 39-year-old mother’s gestational diabetes, the type diagnosed during pregnancy. Such mothers tend to have larger babies.

Here’s why, from an explainer by the American Diabetes Assn.:

“When you have gestational diabetes, your pancreas works overtime to produce insulin, but the insulin does not lower your blood glucose levels. Although insulin does not cross the placenta, glucose and other nutrients do. So extra blood glucose goes through the placenta, giving the baby high blood glucose levels. This causes the baby’s pancreas to make extra insulin to get rid of the blood glucose. Since the baby is getting more energy than it needs to grow and develop, the extra energy is stored as fat.”

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These babies may also have low blood sugar for the first few days of life, according to PubMed Health. Big babies might become children at risk for obesity and diabetes.

But how big is big? Babies heavier than about 8 pounds, 13 ounces are termed “macrosomic,” and they are as common as 1 in 10 pregnancies; babies heavier than about 11 pounds are at higher risk for complications, including shoulder damage during the birthing process, but are more rare (about 1 in 1,000 pregnancies).

One might assume more babies are beginning to fit — or squeeze — into these super-sized categories. After all, men, women and children are getting heavier, and cases of gestational diabetes are becoming more common, growing in lockstep with Type 2 diabetes.

But strangely, big births are on the decline. One study found the puzzling trend that large-baby births steadily decreased in the U.S. between 1996 and 2002. Researchers aren’t sure why, though one explanation is that Cesarean sections and induced labor may be cutting short the time babies spend in the womb.

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Even JaMichael was delivered a week early. The baby is still at the hospital, say reports, and isn’t yet breathing by himself. Staff at the hospital are monitoring his blood sugar levels.

healthkey@tribune.com

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