Infant Hip Dysplasia: What You Need To Know
Infant hip dysplasia affects about one in every 1,000 babies. Sometimes referred to as “congenital hip dislocation” this condition occurs when the joint in the hip does not properly form.
When a baby or young child has this condition it usually implies that the socket of the hip is too shallow which means that the thigh bone cannot be held tightly in place.
The thigh bone connects the hip joint to the pelvis. When this happens it leads to the hip joint being loose or in some cases dislocated completely.
Infant hip dysplasia can affect both hips but is more common in a baby’s left hip and it is more common in baby girls.
Within a couple of days of being born a baby’s hips are usually routinely checked by a doctor. It is often part of the standard physical exam that happens before the maternity hospital discharge you to go home. The doctor will gently manipulate your baby’s hips to check their functionality but it should not be uncomfortable for the baby.
If the hips feel unstable or show any abnormalities the doctor may refer your baby for an ultrasound scan. This scan will usually happen quite quickly to allow for any treatment that could be needed. In some cases, the hips may feel completely normal but a family history of the condition may lead to a precautionary ultrasound scan.
A scan is often routinely requested if a baby was born breech or as part of a multiple birth. In the same way, it may be requested for a premature baby as a precaution. In many cases, even when an issue appears to be present, the hips will have corrected themselves by the time the scan comes around.
In cases where no issues are discovered your baby’s hips will be checked once again at around six-eight weeks usually by your family GP at the standard six weeks check up.
If your baby is diagnosed with infant hip dysplasia it may be recommended that they wear a special harness for several weeks or months. The harness forces the hips to stay in a stable position which encourages them to develop normally. The hospital and your GP will provide extensive support and instructions on how to use the harness and care for your baby while they are using it.
This may involve certain sleeping positions, clothing suggestions and how to care for the actual harness and your baby’s skin. Eventually, the harness will be removed permanently when the hips have developed properly.
In rarer cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the issue. This usually happens when the harness has not worked and your baby is at least six months old.
While most cases of Hip Dysplasia are diagnosed when a child is a small baby it can develop later. It is important to contact your GP if you notice anything unusual about your baby’s leg movements or if you feel that one leg looks longer than the other.
A limp or a waddle can also be signs that the issue is present. If untreated this condition can lead to hip problems later in life such as walking with a limp, pain and arthritis.
The condition cannot be prevented but if you are swaddling or baby wearing it is important to do so in a hip-friendly way to ensure the hips are developing properly and not restricted.
Tracey is mammy to five-year-old Billy and newborn Willow. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can follow her on Instagram.