Tue. Nov 29th, 2022
What is microcephaly? Know more about this

Microcephaly is a neurological disorder that causes babies’ heads to be much smaller than they should be for their size and age.

When a baby’s head is much smaller than it should be for its size and age, it may be because it suffers from a neurological disorder known as microcephaly .

This congenital defect can present at birth or during the first months of life. The problem is that there is no specific test that accurately determines whether a child will be born with microcephaly.

There are times when an ultrasound done in the third trimester can identify the problem, but it won’t be clearly determined until after the baby is born. One of the first warning signs is that the head circumference of a full-term baby measures 33 centimeters or less.


However, aspects such as the size and weight of the baby or the head circumference measurements of the parents must also be taken into account. Also, in vaginal deliveries the head can narrow to pass through the birth canal, so a new measurement should be taken after three or four days.

If a baby is thought to have microcephaly, it is up to your pediatrician to perform tests to determine the cause and do regular check-ups, including measuring head circumference once a month for comparison with growth charts . In addition, the child will have to undergo radiological brain tests.


Why hasn’t the baby’s brain developed as it should? The reasons are several. Some of the most common are the following:

  • Infections suffered by the mother during pregnancy, such as rubella , Zika virus, toxoplasmosis, HIV, syphilis or cytomegalovirus (the latter belongs to the family of viruses that cause herpes).
  • Chromosomal disorders of the baby, among which are Down syndrome or trisomies 13 or 18 (Patau syndrome and Edwards syndrome, respectively).
  • Craniosynostosis, which is a birth defect that causes the sutures between the skull bones to close before brain growth is complete.
  • Suffer from bacterial meningitis.
  • That the mother has abused drugs or alcohol during pregnancy.
  • Malnutrition or uncontrolled diabetes in the mother.
  • Maternal exposure to radiation or certain chemicals or heavy metals such as arsenic and mercury.
  • Lack of oxygen during childbirth.
  • Trauma or injury to the baby’s brain. It may be that this occurs during birth. In this case, microcephaly manifests itself as the baby grows.


Fortunately, microcephaly is not very common (according to the WHO, there is only one case in several thousand), but the bad part is that there is no treatment that can reverse it. Yes, there are language, physical and occupational therapies, aimed at improving the quality of life of children who suffer from it. Check out our parenting site for more and great ideas for your new born.

In addition, depending on the symptoms, medical treatment may be necessary. For example, in the event that epilepsy occurs, the child will need medication.


At this point, it is important to note that most children with microcephaly have neurodevelopmental delays. Symptoms that may be associated with microcephaly include, but are not limited to: coordination and balance problems, seizures, psychomotor disorders, developmental delay, vision problems, hearing loss, hyperactivity, facial distortion, or intellectual disability.

Only in the event that microcephaly has been caused by craniosynostosis can a surgical operation (craniostenosis) be performed to reopen those sutures that had been closed prematurely. That way, if the skull grows, maybe the brain does too.

However, some children with microcephaly have not suffered complications and have managed to develop completely normally.