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A nationwide study of 4,000 pregnant women is being conducted in order to determine whether delivering bigger babies before 40 weeks gestation helps to prevent serious birth complications and issues later on in life.
The number of larger babies being born in the UK has risen steadily partly due to over half of all women of childbearing age being overweight. Although the Royal College of Midwives do not have a set figure as to what a baby should weigh at birth, a baby weighing over 8lb 13oz is considered to be the tipping point between healthy and potentially problematic.
The trial which is being completed over the next three and a half years and is being funded by the National Institute for Health Research will help to establish whether the early induction of labour at 38 weeks helps reduce the chance of birth complications to those carrying larger babies.
The trial will see the 4,000 women either induced at 38 weeks or following normal care and awaiting the natural onset of labour to establish whether the number of birth complications is reduced with an earlier labour. Current evidence is inconclusive as to whether there are any benefits for the early induction of labour in these instances so the research is hoped to help inform future NHS guidelines.
One of the main birthing complications currently experienced in the delivery of larger babies is the difficulty of delivering the shoulders after the head has come out. This can cause an array of issues including Erb’s Palsy, caused by damage to nerves in the neck during birth. This can have lasting consequences including debilitating use of a baby’s arms. The delivery of larger babies also often requires intervention such as forceps, which if applied incorrectly can lead to damage and therefore the potential for a forcep claim.
The study therefore has the scope to help change the current medical guidelines to ensure the safest delivery of larger babies in the future as well as minimising the potential for birth complications that occur as a direct result. The findings of the research have the potential to reduce the number of Erb’s palsy claims and midwife negligence claims by ensuring that sufficient medical guidelines are in place to ensure best practice going forward.
Karen Hillyer, Chairperson of the Erb’s Palsy Group commented:
“We are proud to support the ‘Big Baby Trial’. We currently have over 2,400 families registered as members of our organisation which illustrates how many families are affected by this condition. We are looking forward to the study and hope it will help prevent or at least minimise the effect of Erb’s Palsy on children, mums and families.”