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Why does my pediatrician check my baby's hips at each check-up?

Hip dysplasia (developmental dysplasia of the hip) is a condition in which a child's upper thighbone is dislocated from the hip socket. It can be present at birth or develop during a child's first year of life.

No one is sure why hip dysplasia occurs (or why the left hip dislocates more often than the right hip). One reason may have to do with the hormones a baby is exposed to before birth. While these hormones serve to relax muscles in the pregnant mother's body, in some cases they also may cause a baby's joints to become too relaxed and prone to dislocation.

Factors that may increase the risk of hip dysplasia include

   Sex - more frequent in girls

   Family history - more likely when other family members have had hip dysplasia

   Birth position - more common in infants born in the breech position

   Birth order - firstborn children most at risk for hip dysplasia

Detecting hip dysplasia

Your pediatrician will check your newborn for hip dysplasia right after birth and at every well-child exam until your child is walking normally.

During the exam, your child's pediatrician will carefully flex and rotate your child's legs to see if the thighbones are properly positioned in the hip sockets. This does not require a great deal of force and will not hurt your baby.

Your child's pediatrician also will look for other signs that may suggest a problem, including

   Limited range of motion in either leg

   One leg is shorter than the other

   Thigh or buttock creases appear uneven or lopsided

If your child's pediatrician suspects a problem with your child's hip, you may be referred to an orthopedic specialist who has experience treating hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia is rare and in spite of careful screening during regular well-child exams, a number of children with hip dysplasia are not diagnosed until after they are 1 year old.

Hip Dysplasia in Infants