When parents discover that their baby has plagiocephaly, they often wonder about the cause and whether they could have done something to prevent it. We understand that some parents worry that they have done something to contribute to the development of the condition, but this blog post covers some of the common contributing causes of the condition, to inform parents that plagiocephaly sometimes can’t be avoided.
Developing Plagiocephaly Before Birth
There are some cases in which plagiocephaly develops whilst a baby is in the womb. If a baby is a little pushed for space, their head can become misshapen as a result of the pressure to their head. This can also happen if there is not enough amniotic fluid to cushion the baby whilst they are inside the womb.
This pressure is also sometimes the cause of plagiocephaly in twins. With both babies having to share the womb, it is more likely that one or both of them will have slight pressure to areas of the head. This pressure can’t be avoided but can sometimes result in the development of plagiocephaly.
In cases of plagiocephaly developing whilst babies are in the womb, it is by no fault of the mother or any parent that their baby has developed the condition. Due to the same pressure no longer being present after birth, plagiocephaly usually corrects itself after birth. Particularly if repositioning techniques are carried out by the parent.
The Development of Plagiocephaly During Birth
Babies need to have a soft skull to be able to pass safely through the birth canal. As this can be a tight squeeze for little heads, the pressure from the birth canal can sometimes cause a baby’s head shape to become misshapen.
This is a natural and necessary process, and so plagiocephaly is sometimes an unavoidable outcome during birth. However, as the pressure of the birth canal is absent after birth, many parents will find that their baby’s plagiocephaly is mild and returns to normal on its own.
Plagiocephaly develops due to the softness of a baby’s skull being malleable and therefore susceptible to changing shape. Premature babies have even less time for their skull to develop before birth, and so their heads are even softer and more prone to changing shape than full-term babies. Premature babies also struggle to move their heads, meaning that they often rest their head on one side. Because of this, premature babies are at risk of developing plagiocephaly.
Premature babies are too young for parents to be able to carry out some plagiocephaly prevention techniques, such as tummy time. This can make it difficult for parents to avoid their premature baby from developing a flattening, and parents should feel reassured that it is by no fault of their own if a flattening does occur.
Some babies are born with tight neck muscles, known as Torticollis or ‘wryneck’. This can restrict a baby’s ability to turn their head in a certain direction, resulting in them leaning on one area of their head.
There are different causes of torticollis in infants, but having a restricted ability to move the head freely can result in plagiocephaly. The most common causes of torticollis are a difficult birth or certain positioning within the womb. As this occurs before a baby is born, it is out of the control of the parent and plagiocephaly can be an unavoidable side effect of it. Treating torticollis with various exercises as soon as it is noticed helps to minimise the risk of this.
Plagiocephaly Prevention Techniques
As the condition of plagiocephaly becomes more well-known, some parents are equipped with knowledge of techniques and products that help with plagiocephaly prevention. Although the effectiveness of various prevention products is uncertain, supervised tummy time and repositioning techniques are often an effective way of resolving or preventing a misshapen head.
Despite this, some parents can carry out as many plagiocephaly prevention techniques as possible and their baby may still develop plagiocephaly. To help parents to utilise repositioning techniques as effectively as possible, parents should take the time to research the various techniques and positions, to increase the likelihood of them being a success.
If a baby has already developed a severe version of the condition, it requires more than tummy time and repositioning for this to be corrected. In such cases, we advise parents to book an appointment at one of our clinics, to determine the severity of their baby’s condition and discuss plagiocephaly helmets as a treatment option.
There are various factors that can cause and contribute to the development of plagiocephaly so parents shouldn’t think that they have caused this to happen. It just happens to some babies! If you need help, our clinicians are experts in the condition of plagiocephaly and are ready to offer you advice and treatment for plagiocephaly if you need it.