Baby's head should be measured at birth and here's why
Many parents are unaware of the importance of baby having their head measured at birth
Harry’s HAT (Hydrocephalus Awareness Trust) has revealed that two thirds of parents have not heard of hydrocephalus, despite 400,000 new global cases being recorded annually.
In a survey of 750 Bounty parents with babies aged 0-12 months, the charity found that only 20% of parents were aware that measuring a baby’s head can help identify hydrocephalus.
Almost half (45%) of parents surveyed did not know that their baby’s head should be measured at birth.
Harry’s HAT aims to address these worrying findings by raising awareness of hydrocephalus and the importance of measuring babies’ heads to help identify the condition.
What is hydrocephalus?
Hydrocephalus is a condition where excess fluid builds up inside the skull and puts pressure on the brain. It can lead to brain damage and can be fatal if left untreated.
Symptoms of the condition include an unusually large head, which can lead to a baby’s head being far too big to fit hats for their age group and / or parents not being able to get the baby’s head through a Babygro (for their age range).
Other symptoms of hydrocephalus include:
- Poor feeding
- A tense or bulging soft spot on a baby’s head
- A thin scalp with visible blood vessels
- Eyes that look downwards
- In older children, symptoms can also include difficulty walking, headaches, neck pain and blurred or double vision.
Harry’s HAT founder Caroline Coates said: “The results highlight the need for greater awareness of the condition as well as the need to educate parents and health care professionals about the importance of head circumference measurement as a method for identifying the condition in babies.”
The charity found that healthcare providers rarely inform parents of the importance of head measurements. In fact, 76% of parents who responded were not told why their baby’s head is being measured.
Most concerningly, the research found that a shockingly low number of babies heads are measured, despite NHS advice for regular measurements. Only 67% of baby’s heads are measured at birth.
Additionally, 22% of parents were unsure if their baby’s head had been measured and 10% stated that their baby’s head was not measured at birth. The research found similar figures for head measurements at 6/8 weeks old.
The charity also found that this problem is exacerbated by a lack of access to health visitors for new parents. Only 18% of parents see their child’s health visitor regularly in person and only 46% said their health visitor measured their baby’s head. Responses to the survey suggest COVID-19 has contributed to reduced access to in person services.
Harry’s HAT hopes that the findings of this research will highlight the need to provide consistent levels of care for newborns, so that hydrocephalus can be diagnosed in its early stages.
Find out more at Harry's HAT | Harry’s Hydrocephalus Awareness Trust by clicking on the button below.