Guest Post: – Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH) An Overview

As regular readers will know both myself and my youngest daughter have DDH (Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip) and I have written about hip dysplasia extensively. Today I have a guest post giving a brief overview of DDH from Kristen Hurst:

Though it sounds fairly ominous, especially for anxiety-ridden first-time parents, hip dysplasia is not as uncommon as one might think.  More commonly diagnosed with first-born girls (.04% of live births) the condition can easily be treated without lifelong symptoms or special needs.

Though there seems to be evidence that it does in fact have genetic predispositions (eg. If an adult had DDH, then child’s chances are 1 in 8 of developing), but perhaps the strongest theory is the positioning of the baby in utero,  as those who are in a breech position have a much increased chance of being diagnosed with hip dysplasia.

DDH occurs when the ligaments around the ball of the hip joint loosen and consequently allow the femur to roll around more than the typical infant’s socket.  If severe enough, the ball (femoral head) can actually slip out of the hip socket (subluxation) or worst case, fall all the way out (dislocation).

Below are some things to look for if you suspect your newborn may have hip dysplasia:

  • Signs and Symptoms:  A pediatrician will perform a physical exam palpitating the joint areas and their flexibility with your infant’s initial wellness exam.  They may feel or notice a ‘popping’ when they move their legs around.  By having an ultrasound performed they can confirm the malady and prescribe the correct treatment.  Sometimes an older infant may walk with a limp or have a noticeable difference in leg length, extra skin on the thighs or walking on the toes of one foot.  These should be brought to your pediatrician’s attention.

Only in the most extreme of cases would the pediatrician recommend surgery to correct the misaligned joint, most often than not, treatment consists in keeping the hip joint steady and remaining in place, sometimes this is achieved with the use of a Pavlik harness (primarily in babies).

Interestingly enough, cultures around the world that practice the use of ‘swaddling’ or keeping babies in a sling or papoose have the lowest rates of hip dysplasia in infants.

Because an infant’s hips consist primarily of cartilage, they are far more pliable than the ossified bones of an adult, therefore making it easier to slip in and out of the hip socket.  It is never recommended for you to treat your child’s DDH with extra diapers (the reigning wisdom at the time I was an infant) always bring up concerns during your child’s wellness checkups.  It is treatable when discovered early and often there will be no lifelong complications.

adult bones - hip socket infant bones - hip socket


Infant Hip Socket                                                         Adult Hip Socket






Kristen Hurst is a stay at home mother of three who enjoys blogging. She received her bachelor’s degree in fashion marketing, and writes often about nursing clothes. When she’s not trying to juggle the lives of Casey, Austin and Ben, she enjoys painting and catching up with a great Jane Austen novel.

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