18th September 2017
Guest blogger Zoey Miller offers solutions to everyday family, nursery, parenthood, relationship and health problems on her website, thebabbleout.com. Zoey researched baby hip dysplasia for her site, and shares her findings below.
What is Baby Hip Dysplasia?
Swaddling and baby carriers are great ways to comfort your infant, but if done incorrectly, could damage their joints. You could, unintentionally, promote baby hip dysplasia.
When your infant has hip dysplasia, the hip joint dislocates easily. The ligaments may be loose, and the thigh may not be stabilized in the hip socket. The condition is usually found at birth but can develop any time through the teen years.
The odds of having hip dysplasia increase if your baby presents in the breech position. Your baby may have been resting against your spine. This is why dysplasia is more common in the left hip. The condition is not genetic, but there are known risk factors.
Girls are found to have infant hip dysplasia four times more often than boys.
- Birth order
Your first- born has a higher risk of infant hip dysplasia. Your joints, ligaments, and muscles may be stronger with your first pregnancy, so your baby could have less room to move.
During labor, your body releases hormones that help soften your ligaments to prepare for birth. These hormones may increase your baby’s joint flexibility also. Hip dysplasia caused by hormones may resolve on its own.
- Family history
Although hip dysplasia is not a genetic condition, there are genetic components. If a sibling has hip dysplasia, there is an increased risk for your new baby. If a parent and a sibling both have the condition, that risk increases.
- Low amniotic fluid (oligohydramnios)
With low levels of amniotic fluid, your baby has less ability to move around in the womb.
Baby hip dysplasia is not painful. The condition may not be detected until your child is more active.
- Different leg lengths
- Uneven thigh folds
- Decreased flexibility on one hip
- Limping, toe-walking or waddling
- Standing with a sway-backed posture
Degrees of Dysplasia
In some cases, infants with dysplasia are found to have a shallow hip socket. This means the joint cannot fit firmly. Sometimes the ligaments are loose. Your doctor can examine the hips.
During an exam, your pediatrician may notice that the bones move, but do not dislocate from the joint.
The head of the leg bone is in the proper position, but your doctor can push the hip out of the socket.
Your doctor could discover that the femur is completely out of the hip socket.
Your newborn’s joints are very soft and easily maneuvered. As the bones develop treatment is more involved.
- Nonsurgical (birth to 6 months)
In most cases, the condition resolves with a harness or brace. The brace will still allow your baby to move while keeping the hips in proper alignment.
- Surgical (6 months to 2 years)
If bracing is unsuccessful, or if the condition becomes apparent when your baby is older, the bones may need to be modified to allow proper positioning in the socket. After the procedure, your baby will wear a body cast to maintain proper placement as the joints heal.
You can’t do anything to prevent hip dysplasia before birth. There are steps you can take after your baby is born to prevent the condition, or keep undetected dysplasia from getting worse.
- Hip healthy swaddling
If you swaddle your baby after breastfeeding, keep your infant’s legs bent up and across each other like they were in the womb. Wrapping your baby in a standing position stresses the soft joints and can cause dysplasia.
- Wearing your baby
Wearing a baby carrier can promote infant hip health. The baby’s knees should be slightly higher than the bottom, and the thighs supported to the knee joint. This is called the M position.
- Infant seats, carriers, and swings
Look for seats that are wide enough to promote healthy hip alignment. A car seat or swing should not force your baby to straighten their hips. This should be considered when adding items to your baby registry.
Untreated hip dysplasia can cause problems later in life, including an abnormal gait and painful osteoarthritis. You can watch for signs of hip dysplasia as your child grows. The younger your child is when infant hip dysplasia is detected; the less complicated treatment should be.