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Hip dysplasia in babies: Signs to look out for and treatment



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Created on Oct 15, 2023 · 3 mins read

Blowing raspberries on a belly button, squeezing chunky thighs and baby smiles are just a few joys of changing your baby’s nappies. Having your little one so close means you often feel like somewhat of a detective; where every minor facial expression or change in grunt simultaneously becomes an ‘aww’ or an ‘oh’ moment.

Nappy time is a great opportunity to be doing a quick once-over check of your little one. Maybe, you’ve noticed their legs seem uneven or turned out – or that they have trouble moving their legs or creases on their buttocks. These all can be signs of hip dysplasia in babies.

There are some signs you can look out for,  but remember, health professionals will examine for hip dysplasia during your baby’s regular health checks. If you’re concerned at any time, be sure to request that your baby’s hips are checked.

So, what is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia, sometimes known as Development dysplasia of the hip (DDH), occurs when the hip ball-and-socket joint does not form correctly. The hip joint attaches the femur to the pelvis – this femoral head is rounded and sits inside the hip socket.

In babies, the hip socket is often too shallow and cannot hold the round femur head in place. This means their hips are often prone to dislocation. Usually, hip dysplasia affects one hip, but it can also affect both hips at one time. Hip dysplasia in babies is not painful.

What are the signs? 

Some babies may show signs of:

  • Trouble moving their legs normally
  • Uneven skin creases near the buttocks
  • A turned-out foot
  • Different length legs
  • Uneven weight distribution
  • Late sitting or walking

All newborn babies are examined for hip dysplasia in their first few days of life and again at six weeks. Examinations are also completed during your baby’s regular check-ups throughout their first 12 months. In some cases, an ultrasound may be requested.


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How is it treated? 

A soft brace called a ‘Pavlik harness’ is used to treat babies born with hip dysplasia. This treatment is effective in over 85 percent of the cases. The harness is worn for 6-10 weeks, holds the joint in place, and helps the hip mature naturally.

Some babies will need an operation to put the femoral head back into the socket or require some time in a plaster cast.

Who is at risk? 

Any baby can develop hip dysplasia, however, some have a higher risk than others:

  • Babies born breech (baby positioned bottom-down instead of head-down)
  • Twins
  • Family history of hip conditions (the cause is, however, unknown
  • Girls are more likely to have hip dysplasia than boys

Incorrect swaddling and baby carrying techniques can also contribute to hip dislocation in babies.

Can hip dysplasia be prevented?  

Hip dysplasia is not always preventable as it occurs when the hip joint does not develop properly. However, using the correct techniques when wrapping and swaddling your baby can lower the risk of hip dislocation.  If you have concerns, trust your instincts, and always reach out to your medical professional.

The idea that your little one could have hip dysplasia can be scary and it’s okay for you to feel worried. But the best thing you can be doing for them is to check over them at nappy change time (shouldn’t be hard since their legs are so cute…), swaddle and wrap them correctly and get in touch with medical professionals when you have worries. So keep playing detective, but make sure to enjoy these moments and remember – your baby is in good hands.

This is a paid partnership between Kiindred x ergoPouch.

Healthy Hips Australia/what is developmental dysplasia of the hip
Health direct/hip dysplasia
Better Health Vic/developmental dysplasia of the hip

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