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What Causes Microcephaly?

Oct. 16, 2019

Doctors in Michigan use standardized growth charts to determine how your baby’s growth and development compare to others at the same age. If the circumference of your child’s head is significantly smaller than average, he or she may have a condition called microcephaly. According to the Mayo Clinic, microcephaly can be congenital, meaning that it begins in the womb and is present at birth, or it can occur during infancy. It usually results from abnormal brain development. The causes can be either environmental or genetic.

An example of an environmental cause of microcephaly is cerebral anoxia, i.e., a lack of oxygen to the fetal brain. This can result from complications that occur during pregnancy and/or delivery. Microcephaly can also result from infections that pass from the mother to the fetus. One such infection that has raised concerns in the last couple of years is the Zika virus, which can transmit via mosquito bite. Other factors that can cause microcephaly include severe maternal malnutrition, exposure to drugs or alcohol and chromosomal abnormalities.

Even without measurement by a doctor, you may notice that your child’s head appears to be abnormally small. In a severe case, you may be able to observe the child’s forehead sloping backward. Severe microcephaly can result in intellectual disabilities, developmental delays and physical abnormalities, such as facial distortions or dwarfism. However, some children with microcephaly show otherwise normal development and intelligence.

If you have concerns about the size of your child’s head, you should discuss them with your doctor. Supportive therapies may help to improve your child’s quality of life if implemented early.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.