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Updated: Sep 29, 2021

Microcephaly is a birth defect in which a baby’s head is smaller than expected, compared to babies of the same sex and age. Babies with mild microcephaly often don’t have problems other than small head size. A baby with severe microcephaly has a head that’s much smaller than expected and may have more serious health problems than babies with mild microcephaly. Severe microcephaly can happen if a baby’s brain doesn’t develop properly during pregnancy or if the brain starts to develop correctly but is damaged during pregnancy.

What causes microcephaly in your baby?

During pregnancy, your baby’s head grows as her brain grows. Microcephaly can happen when a baby’s brain doesn’t develop properly during pregnancy or stops growing after birth. We don’t know for sure what causes microcephaly in most babies. But we do know that these things may cause microcephaly in some babies:

Genes and chromosomes

  • Changes in genes (also called mutations) that affect the brain’s growth and development. This is the most common cause of microcephaly. Genes are part of your body’s cells. They store instructions for the way your body grows and works. Genes are passed from parents to children.

  • Chromosomal conditions, like Down syndrome. Chromosomes are the structures that hold genes. Babies with chromosomal conditions have a problem in one or more of their chromosomes.

  • Untreated maternal PKU. This is a condition passed through genes in which a woman’s body can’t break down an amino acid called phenylalanine. Most women with PKU can have healthy babies if they follow a special meal plan that’s low in phenylalanine.

If your baby’s microcephaly is caused by a gene change or chromosomal condition, you may want to see a genetic counselor. This is a person who is trained to help you understand about genes, birth defects and other medical conditions that run in families, and how they can affect your health and your baby's health Ri'Anna saw a genealogist to find out f her condition is genetic or not. We didn't learn the answer to that, but they did discover dormant Thallasemia traits. Which is a whole-nother story .

Microcephaly can also be caused by exposure to harmful chemicals or drugs while baby is in the womb .

How do you know if your baby has microcephaly?

You may find out your baby has microcephaly during pregnancy or after he’s born. During pregnancy, your health care provider may diagnose microcephaly using ultrasound late in the second trimester or early in the third trimester. Ultrasound is a prenatal test that uses sound waves and a computer screen to show a picture of your baby inside the womb.

After birth, a baby with microcephaly may have these signs and symptoms:

  • Small head size

  • Failure to thrive (slow weight gain and growth)

  • High-pitched crying

  • Little appetite or problems with feeding

  • Muscle spasms

To diagnose microcephaly after birth, your baby’s provider measures your baby’s head circumference during a physical exam. Head circumference is the distance around your baby’s head. Your baby’s provider then compares your baby’s measurements in comparison to other babies of the same sex and age .

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to see growth charts that include head circumference information for babies and children. Your Pediatrician also may do these tests:

  • Blood tests

  • Computed tomography scan (also called CT or CAT scan). CT scan uses special X-ray equipment and powerful computers to make pictures of the inside of your baby’s brain.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (also called MRI). MRI is a medical test that makes a detailed picture of the inside of your body.

....which means lots of hospital visits for you. Starting at 5 months old, until around 6 years old . Ri'Anna had therapies 3 times a week. which was usually at the hospital.

How is microcephaly treated?

There’s no cure for microcephaly. Treatment options depend on how severe your baby’s condition is. Babies with mild microcephaly often don’t have other health problems, but they still need regular check-ups so their health care provider can check their growth and development.

Babies with severe microcephaly may need special care and treatment. Babies with craniosynostosis may need to have surgery to help separate the fused bones in their heads and give the skull the ability to expand as the brain grows and develops. Some babies need to take medicines to treat seizures or other health problems. If your baby has microcephaly and has developmental delays, he should see a child neurologist. This is a doctor who treats the brain, spine and nerves in children. Going to get early intervention services as soon as possible can help improve your child’s development. I told RiAnna's pediatrician when she was 4 months old that I didn't think she was reaching her proper milestones .

The services your pediatrician will offer can help children from birth through 3 years old learn important skills. Services include therapy to help a child talk, walk, learn self-help skills and interact with others. Visit the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center to find your state’s contact information for early intervention services.

RiAnna has microcephaly with developmental delays and hypertonic muscle tone which you can see in the way she clenches her hand muscles.

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