June 27, 2021
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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Premature babies are known for being smaller. This is because they are underdeveloped at birth. But, your baby doesn’t have to be born prematurely to have a smaller than normal head size. The condition is known as microcephaly and can lead to developmental delays. So, what do you need to know if your baby is born with it? And, how can you ensure that your child lives a normal life?

What is microcephaly?

Microcephaly is a rare neurological condition that causes an infant’s head to be significantly smaller than those of children of the same age and sex. It’s usually the result of the brain developing abnormally in the womb or not growing as it should after birth. This can cause developmental delays in your child’s growth. Microcephaly is caused by a variety of genetic and environmental factors, including:

  • Prenatal infections
  • Genetic mutations
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain
  • Alcohol and substance abuse during pregnancy
  • Inadequate nutrition
  • Untreated phenylketonuria (PKU)
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals and certain prescription drugs during pregnancy

Symptoms of Microcephaly

While the most obvious sign that your child has microcephaly is a well below-average head size, there are other symptoms that may develop. These signs vary from child to child and include:

  • Poor weight gain and growth
  • Poor appetite/feeding
  • Difficulty with movement and balance
  • Abnormal muscle tone (too loose or tight)
  • Speech delays
  • Mild to severe learning disabilities
  • Very short stature or dwarfism
  • Facial deformities
  • Seizures
  • Vision and hearing problems
  • Joint deformities

Diagnosis & Treatment Options

While diagnosis can occur as early as birth, it’s more likely to occur when your child starts showing signs of developmental delays in addition to the small head size. If their pediatrician suspects microcephaly, they’ll conduct a physical exam and discuss your child’s prenatal, birth, and family history. They’ll measure the circumference of your child’s head — and sometimes, measure yours as well to determine if small heads run in the family. If additional testing is needed, their pediatrician will request a CT scan or MRI and blood tests to help determine the underlying cause of the delay.

While microcephaly isn’t typically treated per se, you can use the diagnosis to get your child the help they need to develop the same as other children their age. Early childhood intervention programs such as speech, physical, and occupational therapy can help your child strengthen their abilities. If your child experiences seizures or hyperactivity, their pediatrician may prescribe medications. In severe cases, a surgery similar to the one conducted for craniosynostosis may be needed.

Caring for a Child with Microcephaly

To ensure your child is able to achieve their developmental milestones, you’ll need to make sure they attend their speech, physical, and/or occupational therapy sessions. These specialists will also give you exercises that you can do at home to help promote development.

If your child experiences seizures, you may also need to monitor them while they sleep. Asking for help from family and friends can help alleviate some of the burdens of your schedule. But, asking someone to watch your child while they sleep may not be realistic. In these situations, home health care nurses can help provide relief while ensuring your child is safe.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help.

Our home health care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you or a loved one are considering pediatric home health care services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.