5 Things All Parents Need to Know about Hip Dysplasia in Babies

Hip dysplasia. It’s hard to say and even harder to spot. Even so, 11 infants are diagnosed with hip dysplasia every single day in Australia. Yes. Every. Single. Day.

Yet many of us don’t know the signs, symptoms and potential dangers that this condition – also known as developmental dysplasia of the hip – can cause.

Here are five important facts every parent should know about hip dysplasia.

about hip dysplasia graphic

1. Hip dysplasia is actually quite common

Hip dysplasia affects countless families each year. So it’s surprising that barely half of affected families have heard of the condition before their babies are diagnosed.

“Approximately one in six newborns will have some hip instability at birth,” Healthy Hips Australia Founder Sarah Twomey tells Mum Central. “By six weeks of age those requiring treatment for hip dysplasia range from 1 in 50 babies in Western Australia with the international average 1 in 100.”

2. It is often ‘silent’

There are no known signs or symptoms of hip dysplasia. It occurs when the ball and socket of the hip do not fit together in their normal position.

Unlike many conditions, hip dysplasia often isn’t painful, especially for infants and young children.  Most people with hip dysplasia won’t notice any pain until they are teens or adults even.

“Like a poorly aligned tyre on a car, a poorly aligned hip will deteriorate quicker than expected and cause arthritic changes which can lead to the potential need for a hip replacement,” Sarah explains.

mum central

Often it can be tricky to detect hip dysplasia, especially if you’re not sure what to look for. As Sarah tells Mum Central, some of the hip dysplasia symptoms include:

  • Difficulty spreading the legs apart to do a nappy change 
  • Buttock creases that don’t line up (asymmetrical)
  • Clicking sound of the hip
  • Walking on tippy toes on one side only (in older children)
  • A difference in leg length (in older children)
  • A waddling walk (in older children)

3. It’s not something you can tick off at birth

While many of us assume hip dysplasia is something you are diagnosed with as a newborn, this isn’t always the case.

Hip dysplasia can develop over time which is why it’s so important for parents to schedule hip checks for their little ones. Sarah recommends regular hip checks up to four years of age.

4. It is way more common in females (and firstborns)

Four out of 5 hip dysplasia patients are girls. Studies also indicate firstborn children are more likely to have it. Other risk factors include a family history of the condition and breech position in the womb.

Another thing to keep in mind is the way baby is swaddled. Research has linked inappropriate swaddling of the lower limbs (down straight and together like a tin soldier) to increased risk of hip dislocation in infants. Choosing a swaddle that supports healthy hips can reduce this risk.mum central

Our choices are all new Love To Dream’s Swaddle Up Hip Harness Swaddle! and Swaddle Up 50/50 Hip Harness Swaddle. The snug, secure and safe swaddles are considered HipWise by Healthy Hips Australia and recognised as a hip-healthy product by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

We also love the ergoPouch’s Cocoon Swaddle (above) which is also recognised as a hip-healthy product by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

5. Support is out there 

“Hip dysplasia might not be life threatening but it can certainly be life changing,” Sarah says. Especially when you’re unsure of what this means for your little one. Treatment will vary depending on the child but the most common treatment method is a brace or harness. Some kids will need surgery or a spica cast.

While receiving the news your child has hip dysplasia is hard, parents must understand that this is a common and treatable condition.

“Our children are incredibly resilient,” Sarah reminds us. “The obstacles we see as adults are more often than not overcome by our children.”

Healthy Hips Australia is a volunteer run organisation that provides emotional and practical support for families of babies and kids with developmental dysplasia of the hips. Check out their My Cause page to show your support, especially during Healthy Hips Week, from 8 April to 14 April, 2018.

For more information on correct swaddling to prevent dysplasia, see our article about are you swaddling your baby correctly?

Avatar of Jenna Galley

Born and raised in Canada, Jenna now lives in Far North Queensland with her tribe. When the mum-of-three is not writing, you can find her floating in the pool, watching princess movies, frolicking on the beach, bouncing her baby to sleep or nagging her older kids to put on their pants.

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