Infant Massage for Spina Bifida


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the majority of babies born in the United States are healthy but roughly 3% or about one in thirty-three are born with a birth defect. While some of these defects are treatable with surgery or medications, getting a second or third opinion is just as important as being educated on them. I plan to cover nine of the most commonly seen birth defects in the United States and how they may impact you and your baby.

Fragile X Syndrome is a chromosomal birth defect with an occurrence of 1 in 1,500 males, with 1 in 1,000 females as carriers and only 1 in 3 showing signs of the defect. The symptoms of Fragile X include a combination of physical characteristics such as larger sized ears, elongated face, poor muscle tone, flat feet, as well as, intellectual issues such as lack of language development, heart problems, "autistic-like" tendencies and many can suffer from seizures. Similar to children with Down Syndrome, children with Fragile X syndrome can do most things children their age can by utilizing early intervention programs which help catch symptoms early.

Sickle Cell Disease is a biochemical birth defect and affects 1 in 625 births, mainly of African-American and Hispanics of Caribbean ancestry. Thirty states currently require newborns to be tested after birth. Causing debilitating bouts of pain and damage to vital organs, the disease itself can be fatal.

Congenital heart defects occur in about 1 in 110 births, some are mild with no visible symptoms while others are more complicated. The defects can stem from genetic abnormalities or a mistake during fetal development. While in utero, heart murmurs can call attention to a defect with more serious defects display themselves obviously and if untreated lead to congestive heart failure. Symptoms of a heart defect usually include rapid heartbeat, breathing difficulties, feeding problems, swelling in legs, abdomen or eyes and pale or bluish skin. Most heart defects are able to be corrected or managed through surgery, drugs or mechanical aids (such as a pacemaker.)

One anatomical abnormality is the clubfoot, which occurs in about 1 in 400 newborns and affects twice many boys as girls. Club foot includes many kinds of ankle and foot deformities and while we still don't know the exact cause of Clubfoot, it is probably a combination of heredity and environmental factors that affect fetal growth. Clubfoot can be mild to severe and affect one or both feet and is not painful until the child begins to walk. Several treatment approaches are common including casting, splints, surgery and special shoes for more severe cases while physical therapy with special exercises work in more mild cases.

Spina Bifida is another anatomical abnormality which is more frequently seen in Caucasians of European descent, happening in roughly 1 in 2,000 births. The abnormality comes from the malformation of a neural tube that prevents the backbone from closing completely during fetal development. Severity ranges from nearly harmless to limb paralysis and bladder/bowel- control problems. Treatment is vast with more severe cases having surgery directly after birth to simple leg and feet exercises to even the use of a wheelchair.

While new treatments are being researched every day, one Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) option is gaining notoriety; Pediatric Massage. With many studies showing benefits to both pre-natal massage for prevention of birth problems to pediatric massage as a treatment option to all of birth defects listed here, it is easy to see why the use of touch is gaining popularity in the medical world. As with any new healthcare program, always check with your doctor before starting, and follow their guidance. They are usually able to refer you to a certified pediatric massage therapist in your area that is experienced in providing therapeutic care to children with birth defects.

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