Microcephaly in a newborn baby is a rare occurrence and can be detected by a smaller head than a child of similar age and gender. This is a neurological issue and has many causes and no cure.
Common microcephaly causes include genetics and/or chromosomal abnormalities like Down Syndrome. There are a few times in which a baby’s difficult birth could be determined as the cause of Microcephaly.
Major Causes of Microcephaly
Chromosomal issues – this issue has no cause and will not be connected to anything the mother or father does before or during the pregnancy
Down Syndrome – again, this is an issue that is not caused by anything outside the body of the mother and father
Malnutrition – this could be from the mother not wanting to gain weight while pregnant so she does not eat, causing her baby to be malnourished
Environmental factors – this may include severe pollution, pesticides and other toxic chemicals in and around the mother-to-be
Zika Virus – a deadly infection carried by mosquitoes that affect the brain tissue of babies in the womb
Cerebral Anoxia – a condition that diminishes the amount of oxygen to the brain of the baby while growing
While the major symptom is a smaller head, there are other indications of Microcephaly parents can be on the lookout for.
- Movement difficulties – this could be with their balance, standing, walking, and general movements
- Hearing loss
- Eating and swallowing difficulties, also known as Dysphagia
- Learning difficulties
- Delayed development – this could be in learning to speak, walk, stand, sit, and other milestones babies reach certain ages
Besides the physical smallness of the head of a baby with Microcephaly, there are a few ways a physician can determine if the baby has this disease.
A physical exam, charting head growth over time and taking a history of the parents. One of the first questions asked of the parents is if they have travelled to a region where the Zika virus has been found. This virus, mainly transmitted by insects, is found in the warmer climates of the south, especially Florida. It has also been found in various places in North America.
Unfortunately, there is no known treatment for Microcephaly. Once a baby is diagnosed with this disease, the focus becomes on the comfort and management of the illness. Some babies experience seizures, in addition to learning and physical problems.
If a doctor determines that the baby is healthy enough other than the Microcephaly, then they may recommend surgery of the skull. If the baby’s skull fuses together before the brain can develop fully, then there is no hope for the baby to grow into a normal child and then adult.
As a pregnant woman, taking care to avoid areas where the Zika virus has been found is a good start to protecting your unborn baby. Taking care during the birth of the baby is also important.
Bringing your baby to regularly scheduled checkups and taking care of them the best you can is the only defence against preventable illnesses.