Hip Dysplasia In Babies: All About The Hip Health

Hip Dysplasia In Babies: All About Hip Health

A growing concern in babies is their hip health. Some babies are born with a dislocated hip but the condition can also be acquired by the baby later, under certain circumstances. The elephant in the room discussing infant hip health issues is Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH). Don’t worry the condition is curable and can be prevented as well.


What is Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH)? 

DDH is an aberrant development of the hip joint which results in increased vulnerability of the hip joint. Normally, in a hip joint, the top (head) of the thigh bone (femur) fits snugly into the hip socket. However, in a child with DDH, the hip socket is shallow. This results in the head of the femur slipping in and out. The femur might dislocate because of the lack of tightness provided by the socket by moving out partly or completely. Children are highly prone to DDH since their thigh bones are made of soft cartilages when they are born, and change into bones in the first few years. A child with DDH can not only experience hip dislocation issues but also create other health issues.

Let us take a look at the predominant causes of DDH.

1. Breech presentation- A baby is breech when the buttocks and legs are near the mother’s cervix and thus come out first during the delivery. 

2. Family history of DDH- DDH is a hereditary problem as seen in many patients. According to the International Hip Dysplasia Institute, children with a family history of DDH are at a 12 times higher risk of being diagnosed with DDH than others.   

3. Being the firstborn- During the first pregnancy, a mother’s uterus is usually tighter than the following pregnancies. This leads to a tighter environment for the baby which can result in them having DDH.

4. Female children-  There is a clear female dominance in patients of DDH where 80% of the babies suffering from the condition are females. This is because girl children have more flexible ligaments as compared to boy children.

5. Tight and uncomfortable swaddling- It is very important to swaddle your baby with the right amount of tightness, breach of which can lead to DDH in babies. The baby might also have a response to the hormones of the mother.

The million dollar question: How to prevent DDH?

Here is the good news, DDH is curable. DDH cannot be prevented when causes include family history, breech presentation, and/or a tight uterus. Essentially, if a baby is born with DDH, there is nothing much that can be done to prevent it but medical screenings and mandatory check-ups help cure the same. Many babies who are not born with DDH acquire it later in life specifically in the swaddling days. If a baby is swaddled too tight, leaving little or no space for movement, it affects their growth. When the baby’s tender thighs are not provided enough space for development, they are likely to get dislocated. It is also important to understand that not-too-tight does not mean too-loose. 
Additionally, swaddling is imperative to keep your baby comfy, avoid startle reflex, develop sleep patterns, and many more reasons. Most paediatricians and doctors recommend swaddling and it is a proven method to be helpful to newborns. We reiterate, that the correct method is the only way to ensure swaddling is beneficial for your baby and not perilous.

Smart tips from experienced parents! 

1. To ascertain that you do not swaddle your baby too tight, always check by putting 2-3 fingers between the swaddle and baby’s body. If your fingers can comfortably slide in and out, the swaddle is just the right amount of snug. 
2. As the baby starts transitioning, they will try to come out of the swaddle. They will prefer a state where they can move their limbs, over snug swaddling. It is crucial that Mama and Papa pick up on these signs and gradually stop swaddling. If swaddling is not stopped at the accurate time, hip development can be delayed and hampered.

Symptoms of DDH

Stanford Children's Health suggests the following symptoms that can help you know if your baby is suffering from DDH: 

1. The leg may appear shorter on the side of the dislocated hip
2. The leg on the side of the dislocated hip may turn outward
3. The folds in the skin of the thigh or buttocks may appear uneven
4. The space between the legs may look wider than normal 

Diagnosis of DDH

Every 1 in 6 newborns are diagnosed with DDH while only 1 in 1,000 need treatment to cure the condition. All children are checked at birth for DDH and most babies born with DDH are diagnosed at an earlier age. Baby's healthcare provider does a physical screening of the baby soon after birth where parents are asked questions about family history, delivery, and other details. This screening may also include an X-ray and ultrasonography.  The sooner the child is diagnosed, the higher the chances are to cure the condition owing to developing bones. The tougher the bones get, the more permanent DDH gets. 

With the advancement of medical science, curing DDH is seeing new options everyday and making the repositioning of the hip joint more feasible. Caregivers and parents can reduce the chances of DDH in a baby if they were healthy at birth. Even if your baby is diagnosed with DDH at birth, we hope you do not fret and calmly take care of the little one. After all, every baby is a special angel in their own adorable way!

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