Your doctor can measure your baby’s growth in a number of
ways. For example, your doctor will check your baby’s height or length and their
weight to learn if they’re growing normally. Another measure of infant growth
is head circumference, or the size of your baby’s head. It’s important because
it can indicate how well their brain is growing. If your baby’s brain isn’t
growing properly, they may have a condition known as microcephaly.
Microcephaly is a condition in which your baby’s head is
smaller than those of other children of the same age and gender. This condition
may be present when your baby is born. It may also develop in the first two
years of their life. It has no cure. Early diagnosis and treatment, however,
can improve your child’s outlook.
This condition is caused by abnormal brain development.
Abnormal brain development can occur while your child is still in the womb or during
infancy. Genetic conditions can also contribute to the development of
Genetic conditions that can cause microcephaly include:
Cornelia de Lange syndrome
This disorder slows your child’s growth inside and outside
of the womb. Severe intellectual problems, arm and hand abnormalities, and distinct
facial features are common. For example, children with this condition often
have eyebrows that grow together in the middle, low-set ears, and a small nose
This condition is
also known as trisomy 21. Children with trisomy 21 typically have:
- cognitive delays
- mild to moderate intellectual disability
- weak muscles
- distinctive facial features, such as almond-shaped
eyes, a round face, and small features
Cri du Chat syndrome
Babies with this condition have a distinct, high-pitched
cry, similar to that of a cat. The common features of this syndrome include:
- intellectual disability
- low birth weight
- weak muscles
facial features, such as wide-set eyes, a small jaw, and low-set ears
Babies with this rare condition are shorter than normal.
They also have large thumbs and toes, distinctive facial features, and
intellectual disabilities. People with the severe form of this condition often don’t
survive past childhood.
This rare condition causes growth delays in and out of the
womb. Common characteristics include intellectual disability and certain facial
features, including a narrow face, beaklike nose, and sloping jaw.
Babies with this condition have intellectual disabilities
and behavioral disabilities that mirror autism. Early signs of this disorder
include feeding difficulties, slow growth, and combined second and third toes.
This condition is
also known as Edward’s syndrome. It can cause:
- slow growth in the womb
- a low birth weight
- an irregularly-shaped head
- organ defects
Babies with this condition usually don’t survive past the
first month of life.
Exposure to viruses, drugs, or toxins
Microcephaly can also occur when your child is exposed to
certain viruses, drugs, or toxins in the womb. For example, the use of alcohol or drugs by pregnant women can
cause microcephaly in their children.
The following are other potential causes of microcephaly:
Zika virus spreads to humans through infected mosquitos. The
infection usually isn’t very serious. However, if you develop the zika virus
disease while you’re pregnant, you can pass it on to your baby. Zika virus causes
microcephaly and several other serious birth defects. These include vision and
hearing defects, and impaired growth.
Some people use methylmercury to preserve the seed grain that
they feed animals. It can also form in water, leading to contaminated fish.
Poisoning occurs when you eat contaminated seafood or meat from an animal that’s
been fed seed grain that contains methylmercury. If your baby becomes exposed
to this poison, they may develop brain and spinal cord damage.
If you contract the virus that causes German measles, or
rubella, within the first three months of pregnancy, your baby may develop
severe problems. These problems can include deafness, intellectual disability,
and seizures. However, this condition isn’t very common due to the use of the
If you’re infected with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii while you’re pregnant, it can harm your
developing baby. Your baby may be born prematurely with many physical problems,
including seizures and hearing and vision loss. This parasite is found in some
cat feces and uncooked meat.
If you contract this virus while you’re pregnant, you can
pass it on to your fetus through your placenta. Other young children are common
carriers of this virus. It can cause jaundice, rashes, and seizures in infants.
If you’re pregnant, you should take precautions by washing your hands
frequently and not sharing utensils with children under age 6.
Uncontrolled phenylketonuria (PKU) in the mother
If you’re pregnant and have the gene for phenylketonuria
(PKU), it’s important to follow a low phenylalanine diet. If you consume too
much of this substance, which you can find in milk, eggs, and aspartame
sweeteners, it can harm your developing baby.
Microcephaly may also be caused by certain complications
during delivery. Decreased oxygen to your baby’s brain can increase their risk
of this disorder. Severe maternal malnutrition can also increase their chances of
complications are associated with microcephaly?
Children diagnosed with this condition will have mild to
severe complications. Children with mild complications may have normal intelligence.
However, their head circumference will always be small for their age and
Children with more severe complications may experience:
- intellectual disability
- delayed motor function
- delayed speech
- facial distortions
- dwarfism, or short stature
- difficulty with coordination and balance
is microcephaly diagnosed?
Your doctor can diagnose this condition by tracking your
baby’s growth and development. When you give birth to your baby, your doctor
will measure their head circumference. They’ll place a measuring tape around your
baby’s head and record its size. If your doctor notes abnormalities, they may
diagnose your child with microcephaly.
Your child’s doctor will continue to measure your child’s head
at routine well-baby exams during the first two years of life. They’ll also
keep records of your child’s growth and development. This will help your child’s
doctor detect any abnormalities.
You should also record any changes in your baby’s
development that occur between visits with their doctor and tell their doctor about
them at the next appointment.
is microcephaly treated?
There’s no cure for microcephaly. Treatment for your child’s
condition will focus on managing complications.
If your child has delayed motor function, they may benefit
from occupational therapy. If they have delayed language development, speech
therapy may help. These therapies will help build and strengthen your child’s
natural abilities. If your child develops certain complications, such as seizures
or hyperactivity, their doctor may also prescribe medication to treat them.
to do if your child is diagnosed with microcephaly
If your child’s doctor diagnoses them with this condition, you’ll
need support. Finding a doctor and care team to help you make informed
decisions is important. You may also want to connect with other families facing
the same challenges. Support groups and online communities may help you manage
your child’s condition and find useful resources.
microcephaly be prevented?
It’s not always possible to prevent microcephaly, especially
when the cause is genetic. If you have a child with the condition, you may want
to seek genetic counseling before having another child.
Getting proper prenatal care and avoiding alcohol and drug
use while pregnant may help you prevent microcephaly. Prenatal checkups give
your doctor the opportunity to diagnose maternal conditions, such as