Baby size, mother's and father's genes - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 18 Old 10-06-2010, 04:51 PM - Thread Starter
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Sorry, this got a bit long and rambly...

This is really just a curiosity, but I'm looking more for either studies/surveys or at least strong anecdata from birth professionals with a LOT of experience.

It's always been my instinct/understanding (but not truly based on hard data) that baby size is primarily dependent on the following, to varying degrees:

-Mother's genes
-"Age" at birth (30 weeks, 35 weeks, 40 weeks, etc.)
-Nutrition (maybe less so than currently emphasized)
-Interventions (both procedures and drugs- medical and other)
-Certain diseases and anatomical issues (such as what might lead to IUGR, twin pregnancy, etc.)

Of course it's still an inexact science, but what I am curious about is whether Dad's genes really come into play all that much?

Intuitively, I'd actually guess they didn't? Especially since size at birth does not correlate much at all to size at 1 year or 5 years (unless I'm grossly misinformed), not to mention size at adulthood.

Obviously, we are talking about at least two things here (if not many more). 1) How big Dad and Dad's genetic relatives were at birth, and 2) How big Dad and his relatives are as people/adults.

At the very least, I'd guess #2 would be really minimally important, and #1 might not be that important either? One would guess that evolutionarily it would make sense for women's bodies (almost always) to grow baby to whatever size ideal for them as individuals. Doesn't matter if the baby grows up to be a 4'11" woman or a 6'5" man.

I know this would be super-hard to narrow down in any decent study! Especially considering how "messed-around-with" (inductions, etc.) so many women's births are, and not just in the US-- and every individual birth and pregnancy is so different anyway.

And... let's say Dad was 11 pounds at birth, and all his siblings were 10+ lbs... We don't know if that was something genetic that could even be passed down to his sperm or if it was for some other reason related to his mom's nutrition or any other number of things.

But of course, ideally, one would track the babies of women who had children by more than one bio father, preferably more than one by each father...

My guess would be that the babies would be fairly close in length/weight to each other when other factors were minimized.

What say you?

I ask in part because it seems people just assume that if a small woman is impregnated by a big man, she's going to explode.

This is especially true when the man comes from "stock" considered big in general, and the woman does not. Say, a woman of Cambodian descent with a man of Swedish descent.

I have heard that if you can get a Chihuahua pregnant by a Great Dane or whatever, there will be problems. But domestic dogs are SO much more diverse than people because humans have interfered so severely and artificially with their "evolution" for thousands of years. Still, if it is true, it seems to imply that dad's genes come into play somehow... But to what extent? Is it really significant or even determinable in humans, who are much more genetically similar to one another than dogs (esp. considering race as a social construct, etc.)?

Just thinking "out loud!" Any input is appreciated.
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#2 of 18 Old 10-08-2010, 06:24 PM
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OK, I am not a birth professional, but just from anecdotal evidence it doesn't seem like that holds true. For instance, one of my friends has three children. She is very slight and her family tends to be that way too. Dad is quite tall. All three kids appear to be taking after dad (very tall for age) and all were bigger babies (8.5+ lbs). Another friend has two kids with her DH. They were born at the same gestation age, one was quite big (over 10 lbs) and the other was small (around 7 lbs but don't know for sure as midwife's scale was not accurate). First kid definitely appears to be taking after DH's family which is tall & big all around. Second kid appears to be taking after mom's family, maybe taller-than-average but more slender in build. I don't know how big of babies run in the family in either case.

My two kids are both taking after my family (very slender in build) and both were smaller (around 7 lbs at birth). DH is tall and very broad and the rest of his family is average in height though bigger boned. His mom had bigger babies and so did his sister (her third was 11 lbs). My mom had small babies (largest was 6 lbs 10 oz). We'll see who #3 resembles in build and how big he/she is at birth.

So it seems to me, at least based on anecdotal evidence for full-term babies from healthy moms, baby's size at birth is based more on their dominant genes, so a kid that's going to be big is likely to come out as a big baby, and a kid that's going to be petite probably isn't going to emerge as a 10 lb baby.

I know that's not the type of evidence you were looking for, but to me at least that doesn't seem to support the theory that baby's size is based on mom's size/genes.
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#3 of 18 Old 10-08-2010, 10:20 PM - Thread Starter
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Is that really true? That a baby's size at birth is strongly correlated to his/her size as an adult? Genuinely asking.

I mean, if we're talking anecdotes... My brother and I, for example, were both 7-8 lbs, very average for mostly-white American babies born in the 1970s/80s. We're both small people as adults-- I'm 5'2" and he's 5'6" on a good day. Those were low-intervention, healthy pregnancies with babies that arrived around 40 weeks.

My mom and her siblings were all 9-11 lbs, also from healthy pregnancies, obviously not induced, all around 40 weeks. In order, my mom is a slender 5'6", next sister is 5'3" and 225 lbs (and has a "big" build regardless of fatness), next is 5'9" and 250+ lbs (also "big build"), next is my uncle, 6'2" and 300+ lbs but naturally slimmer of build, last is my 5'2" aunt who is built more mesomorphically, like me.

My aunt (the 5'9" one above), has three kids by two husbands. All three were 6.5-7.5 lbs at birth. Her adult daughter is 4'10" and a size 0, her adult sons (one by each of her husbands) are both 6'-6'1".

And as long as we're talking about interracial couples, my (Filipino) husband has more than one female cousin married to a white man from a "big ethnicity," and all of them AFAIK have had babies under 7 lbs, although those kids sometimes grew up to dwarf their moms.

Just saying.

I'm not thinking dad's genes count for NOTHING, but I do think that A) we don't know what a man's "baby weight" genes are by looking at him, and B) I don't think they're as important as other signals a mom's body may be giving to a growing baby-- i.e., HER "baby weight" genes.
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#4 of 18 Old 10-10-2010, 08:38 PM
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I think you're right that the mother's genes come into play more than the father's, and that there's little or no correlation between birth size and later size.

I've had two babies by two very differently sized men -- ex-H (5'7), and DH (6'1) -- baby 1 was 6 lbs 14 oz, and baby 2 was 6 lbs 15 oz. I'm 5'6 and was about 7 lbs at birth. DH was more like 8 lbs 12 oz I think.

Anyhow, baby #1 is ~average height for age, maybe a bit short. Baby #2 is 95th+ percentile for height.

So my experience confirms what the OP was thinking, but it's just two children (same mom, different dads) so it's not exactly a large sample.

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#5 of 18 Old 10-11-2010, 12:40 AM
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Again I am not a birth professional but I would love to hear one weigh in. I asked for reassurance on this point repeatedly during my pregnancy with my DD. The reason is that my and my parents birth weights cluster closely. And Dh is very different
My Mom: 6lb 12oz
My Dad: 6lb 6 oz
Me: 6lb 9 oz.
All full term, all long. we are all fairly tall and of slender to medium build. I am just under 5'10 and 145 to 150.

My DH: 10 lb 13 oz. As an adult he is 6'4" and 200+ lbs. but his mother is tall and on the heavier side.

The result? DD was full term 6lb 5oz and proceeded to grow like crazy. She caught up and tracked at 50th percentile for wt and 60th for height. She is now at 4 climbing the growth charts for height to 80th percentile.

All of us in this example are first or only children.

We'll see how the next one turns out.

Wife to DH, mom to DD1 energy.gif 9/06 and our new arrival DD2 femalesling.GIF 6/11


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#6 of 18 Old 10-11-2010, 01:02 AM
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I am a small woman who was impregnated by a large man, and I did not explode .

I'm not any sort of birth professional, just a scientist on indefinite sabbatical who likes to read anything and everything.

There was a huge difference between my son's birth size and DH and my sizes. I was 8 lb 6oz and 22.5 inches long and born on my due date. My sister was just under 9 lbs and 21 inches, and was two weeks late. Our mother was all of 5'0". I am now 4'11" and about 110 lbs, and I stopped growing when I was 11. DH was about 9lbs when he was born and is now 6'0" and on the husky side. His younger brothers were close to 10lbs each.

DS was 6 lb 5oz and 18.5 inches, born at 38.5 weeks. He is still tiny at 9.5 months at 18lbs and 26 inches, but has grown steadily and is just petite and very healthy. He is extremely energetic and a good eater. He must take after me in size, but I'm hoping he'll end up taller later. I never got really huge compared to other women, and didn't really show until 6 months, which really surprised me given my size and birthweight. I think my next baby might not be so petite, but I don't really know if my body will carry a baby past 6lb 8oz or so. I was actually one of the few who had a pretty accurate ultrasound weight estimate, and 36 weeks my doctor estimated my son would weigh somewhere around six and a half pounds at 40 weeks.

I was vegan for 13 years before DS was conceived, and remained vegan. I ended up gaining just under 45 lbs, mostly because reflux and morning sickness pretty much forced me to snack all day to keep anything down at all. I had perfect blood test results with no GD or anemia. I was on no medications for most of my pregnancy except CoQ10 because of my recessive genetic disorder, and I took prenatals. I was on a proton pump inhibitor my last month because I had intense reflux and morning sickness for the entire pregnancy and ended up damaging my teeth and esophagus. I had a natural unmedicated childbirth, the total opposite of my mother's elective, general anesthetic cesarean.

I don't think DH's size genes have shown up in DS at all. He is still petite and slim, and I'm guessing he will end up taking after me in the size department.

Rowan 12/19/09
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#7 of 18 Old 10-15-2010, 08:33 PM
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Most of the women I know have babies that are somewhere between the size of the mother and the father at birth, nothing to do with their sizes in adulthood.

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#8 of 18 Old 10-15-2010, 09:13 PM
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Our babies have all taken after the father's side. My mother and her brother were nice sized newborns and are both tall, heavier built people (though my mother is thin, she is wider than her daughters). All of her children took after her husbands side (all my dad's family are slightly built, and short) when it came to birth weight- all were 7 1/2 lbs or less. With the girls we ended up in the middle of my moms height (5'6) and paternal grandmas height (4'11). All the boys took after my moms side height wise so are all 6ft or taller, though they have more slender builds than my moms side. Even being 6 ft does make them shorter than my maternal grandfather was (before he shrunk a bit My mil is a little shorter than me (I'm 5'2 1/2) and weighs around 120. She only weighed around 90 until her mid-twenties and so did her daughter. All her kids weighed 8lbs or more, but boys ended up around 6 ft or a little shorter (a little shorter than their dad) and with slender builds. The daughter ended up same height as me and is now around 120 lbs with a slender build. All of my kids (other than the preemie, who still weighed full term size at 6lbs 7 oz) weighed between 8lbs and 10lbs 2 oz. I'm sure the trend will hold with these last two pregnancies. So summary, in our family history the babies have taken after the fathers when it comes to birth weight and size but as they grow they end up being a mixture of the two parents.
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#9 of 18 Old 10-15-2010, 10:52 PM
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It's hard to say for my kids b/c my DH (who is a big guy, 5'11" and just big) was born to a smoking mother. He was 40 wks and just under 7#, as were his 2 siblings. I however was 9#6oz and 22.25". I'm a whopping 5'3" now. My younger brother was born at 9#5oz (he was 42wks as well, all natural birth as well) and 22.5" and is 6'2" or so! You can see birth size had nothing to do w/ how we ended up as adults. My kids have all been born from 38.5-40 wks and were 7#2oz to 8#2oz, 2 w/ fairly large heads which they did get from their daddy!

Jennifer, LPN and nursing student, Doula, CPST, and VBAC mama x3 to
AJ (5/03), Evan (12/04), Ilana (11/06), Olivia (2/09), and Unity (8/2012)

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#10 of 18 Old 10-16-2010, 12:35 AM
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As a mom with kids by different fathers, I've wondered this too. My particular case says that dad's genes have no effect.

I was 7lbs 2ozs at birth, 42 weeks.

XH was 6lbs 8ozs at 44 weeks (This is crazy and I go with XMIL's dates being off). He's DS's father

DP was 7lbs 8ozs at who-knows-what-gestation (future MIL can't remember). He's DD's father

DS was 6lbs 5ozs at 38+6 weeks
DD was 6lbs 15ozs at 39+6 weeks

If they'd been born at the same gestation, I'd expect them to be just about the same size. But I have to agree with PP's that their growth after birth have been radically different.
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#11 of 18 Old 10-16-2010, 02:55 AM
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All five of my babies have come at 8-9.5 pounds (I'm 5'7")...I've been 140lbs and 260 pounds-healthy eating and not...and from two different fathers (2 with one and 3 with another)-one of the fathers weighs around 300 pounds and is 5'7" the other is 6'... Made no difference for me or so it seems. Two of them were identical birth weights 9.3oz...and from different dads.

On that favorite aunt measures a whopping 5'2" and combined with my 5'7" uncle they produced a 10 pound something whopper (yes, natural vaginal birth-no tears-woohoo) who is now 18 and 6'8" I know...insane. The "kid" ducks when he walks in the door of my house. She went on to have two more babies...all with different dads....who were born 6-7 pounds each and are tiny little teenagers...

I dunno? Very interesting topic though!

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#12 of 18 Old 10-16-2010, 08:54 AM
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I'm going to come back and read this, but I just wanted to mention that I've read a study or two that showed higher rates of c/s in asian women with caucasian partners, presumably due to size issues. I'll see if I can remember where and dig it up - it was a couple of years ago.

The women in my family make big babies. The smallest of my siblings was 9lbs even, the largest almost 11lbs. My cousins were all close to or above 9lbs on my mom's side. I was sort of shocked when my dd was "only" 9lbs 2oz. You can bet that we all nearly had heart attacks when my little sister produced a 6.5lb baby. The size of the father at birth or in adult life doesn't seem to have much bearing on the outcomes, at least in our family.
I haven't had enough clinical experience to really comment on things from that side. It's an interesting topic though, for sure!

For greater things are yet to come...

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#13 of 18 Old 10-16-2010, 08:55 AM
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Another lay-person weighing in...

Dh and I were both born under 7lbs. I'm 5'8" and he's 5'11". I'm built, um, "sturdily", and he's very thin.
None of our children has been under 7lbs, and none of their weights really correlate to gestational age.
40w1d- 8lb10oz
41w- 9lb2oz
42w- 7lb15oz
Their pregnancies were all similar in diet, lifestyle, OTC meds, etc.

I do have a child from another relationship. I don't know his father's birth weight, but he's a bit of a stocky guy, 6'1 or 2". Our son was 7lb9oz at 40w1d. I did have a pretty crummy diet with him.

All of my kids are tall for their age. 2 are average weight/build (the 9lb2oz and 7lb15oz) and 2 are skinny rails (the 8lb10oz and 7lb9oz).

I don't see any pattern at all (so far) in my small sample size.

Even when considering bf v. ff, or length of bf'ing, I don't notice any impact on their current sizes. My only fully ff'ed baby is the skinniest of them all.

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#14 of 18 Old 10-16-2010, 05:00 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by selkat View Post
I'm going to come back and read this, but I just wanted to mention that I've read a study or two that showed higher rates of c/s in asian women with caucasian partners, presumably due to size issues. I'll see if I can remember where and dig it up - it was a couple of years ago.
I'd be very interested in those studies, if you can find them!

I'd also put out a tentative hypothesis that C/S rates could very well be higher because of OB expectation and not reality. Just as higher C/S rates in obese women show signs that they are in part the result of prejudice and not necessarily a result of any particular health issue.

You see a little "FTP," a small mom of Asian descent and a larger white father... You start to get ideas, visions of exploding uterii...

Considering there are no higher rates of CPD based strictly on "race" AFAIK, there is no reason that a 5'2" Asian woman with a 6' white partner would be more likely to need a C/S than a 5'2" white woman with a 6' white partner, AFAICT, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were given more C/S for the reason stated above.

Now, there's also another possibility, and I could see this being semi-legit. And that is, Asian women born and raised in Asia are slightly more likely to have had nutritional issues than if they were raised in the US (for a variety of complicated reasons), so I could see a slightly greater incidence of C/S for something approximating "true" CPD in those women... However, I'm still skeptical that it would matter whether the father were white, Asian, black, etc... Not to mention the diversity in size among people of Asian descent, etc... and the fact that this would be just about as true of a black woman born and raised in Africa or the southwestern hemisphere, a Latina woman from Latin America, etc.


Honestly, I could really see OB prejudice (meant in the simple dictionary sense) playing a part here-- and though I think it would be stronger in an interracial couple, I could see it being a relevant point for any woman whose child's father was clearly much bigger than she was.

(The funny thing about this whole discussion is that it really won't apply to me at all. I'm 5'2.5", but my husband is only 5'5". My brother and I were 7-2 and 7-15, though babies in my family range from 7 to 11. But all the babies on my husband's side have pretty much been in the 5 to 8 range. Even if dad's genes are a significant factor, I will not be exploding, LOL. Maybe I will get some of my maternal grandma's genes, though-- I would love to have a bigger baby since they seem more likely to be well-positioned.)
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#15 of 18 Old 10-19-2010, 07:55 PM
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I recall doing some research on this in midwifery school (several years ago now). Here were the things that predicted baby's size:
mother's prepregnancy weight/BMI
mother's total weight gain in the pregnancy
alcohol in the pregnancy
cigarette smoking in the pregnancy.

I believe these were the only factors that researchers were able to strongly correlate with birthweight. Obesity increased the chances of having a big baby. Greater weight gain was associated with bigger birthweights. Smoking and drinking in pregnancy were associated with lower birthweights.

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#16 of 18 Old 10-19-2010, 08:15 PM
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I was about 6 lbs. at birth (42 weeks gestation). My ex and dh were about 8 lbs at birth. I did not smoke or drink during any of my pregnancies, the first two I had less than adequate nutrition and was thin but healthy pre-pregnancy. Not counting my pre-term (induced) kiddo, all of my kids were over 8 lbs at birth. My mom had small kids and most of my family, as well, so I'm fairly certain it wasn't my genetics.

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#17 of 18 Old 10-20-2010, 12:11 AM
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Originally Posted by jgale View Post
I recall doing some research on this in midwifery school (several years ago now). Here were the things that predicted baby's size:
mother's prepregnancy weight/BMI
mother's total weight gain in the pregnancy
alcohol in the pregnancy
cigarette smoking in the pregnancy.

I believe these were the only factors that researchers were able to strongly correlate with birthweight. Obesity increased the chances of having a big baby. Greater weight gain was associated with bigger birthweights. Smoking and drinking in pregnancy were associated with lower birthweights.
But even those factors are not tried and true predictors. In my own case, I gained around 60 pounds with each pregnancy, regardless of how I ate. My first pregnancy, my diet was pretty bad (noodles, vegetables, milk, repeat) and I ended up with an induction for pre-e at almost 36 weeks, resulting in a tiny but otherwise healthy 5 lb 7 oz baby girl, who is still very petite. yada yada yada... Fifth baby, healthiest diet yet, same maternal weight gain, baby came super early at 34.5 weeks (still chose to have him at home UC), and he was my biggest baby at 6 lb 13 oz, and is on pace to dwarf everyone.

My conclusions from my own experiences as well as nine+ years of attending births?
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#18 of 18 Old 09-06-2013, 04:23 PM
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A father's size is determined by his genetics just as a mother's size is. Of course these sets of genetics combine to develop offspring of their genes. A chihuahua impregnated by a larger dog can die if medical help is not available at the time of delivery. For human females, our uterus expansion and capability of seeking medical attention when signs of labor present themselves make the size of our offspring a non factor so long as they are healthy in size. My ex was 6'5", I am 5'1", our son was born 8lbs 8oz, 21 inches long. He is now five years old and the size of your average eight year old. My next child was not with my ex, her father is 5'11'. She was born weighing 7lbs 1/2oz and 19 inches in length. I am currently pregnant with twin boys so we shall see their weight and length comparisons. The point I am trying to convey here is that of course the father's genes come into play when it comes to the size of an infant, toddler, adolescent, and eventually adult. My question would be if it comes into play during gestation. I am wondering if the father is say 5'3", and the mother is 5', would the fetus of these two persons be smaller than what is considered in the normal percentile (10th). Any answers to THAT?

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