Hip dysplasia

After just a day of having our gorgeous baby girl she was diagnosed with Developmental Hip Dysplasia following her routine newborn physical examination. We wanted to share our experiences and what its like living with a newborn with hip dysplasia to help others in the same situation. Hopefully we can help ease the worry that parents feel in this horrible situation when you have been told your baby has something wrong as isn’t quite the perfect little munchkin we all imagine.

I’ll be honest – I’d never heart of hip dysplasia in humans, only in dogs from watching Supervet!”

I think witnessing the examination was one of the worst bits! Seeing the nurse move her legs around and her little hip pop out of place, hearing her crying, my heart ached! We were told she would need an ultrasound and within the hour we were taken down to the ultrasound department. She had bilateral hip dysplasia, meaning it was affecting both of her hips. 

We didn’t have a clue what it meant for the future for our little girl. Is she in pain? Can it be fixed? How much would it effect her? Would she be able to walk?

So what is Developmental Hip Dysplasia? (Also called Developmental Dysplasia of the hip and you may also see it shortened to DDH.)

(Image thanks to www.hipdysplasia.org)

Your hip joint connects your leg to your pelvis and is what is known as a ‘ball and socket’ joint. Developmental hip dysplasia is basically where the ball and socket hasn’t formed properly – the ‘socket’ in the pelvis is too shallow and so the ‘ball’ at the top of the leg isn’t held in place and can dislodge/dislocate. If only one hip is affected then it is called unilateral, when both hips are affected it is bilateral hip dysplasia.

The statistics at the time of writing this (2018) is that it affects about 1 in 1000 babies and is more common in firstborn children and girls. It is also more common in babies that were in the breech position during pregnancy. It can also be genetic, with it being 12 times more likely if there is a family history of dysplasia.

For more information on hip dysplasia check out the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

Some answers…

Earlier I listed the main questions we had when we first found out. Now I have explained a little about what Developmental Hip Dysplasia is I will tell you the answers we have discovered to these questions:

  • Is she in pain? – The simple answer – Nope. At such a young age it causes no pain whilst they are just laying there not able to do much.
  • Can it be fixed? – Yes! Don’t panic – in the majority of cases, especially those caught early, it is fixed before they are trying to walk! I will explain a little about treatments below.
  • How much would it affect her and will she be able to walk? – If treatments work then it shouldn’t affect the overall mobility of the child as they grow older. However without treatment then it could result in a limp, hip pain and painful and stiff joints. They can still kick around and move their legs in the harness, and should! The only thing they can’t do is roll over.


There are both surgical and non-surgical treatments dependant on the severity and how the hip is formed, but don’t panic! In my experience they prefer to go down the non-surgical route if they can.

It seems the most common type of treatment is a Pavlik Harness, especially in the UK. This is a specially designed harness that gently aligns the baby’s hips into a secure position to encourage the socket to naturally deepen and develop as it should. This is the treatment I know the most about as this is what our little girl is in, so this will be the focus of the rest of the post. There are other non-surgical treatments which are more prevalent in other countries I believe.

Surgical methods are more often used if the child is diagnosed after it is 6 months old or if non-surgical treatments haven’t had the desired effect.

Again, for more information you can look at the NHS website or the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

So, what does a Pavlik Harness look like?

Well here is one of my favourite photos of our little girl and all she is wearing her harness and a nappy.

The harness is made up of straps with Velcro so it is adjustable as they grow. It keeps their legs at 90 degrees out to the side to aid the joints the form properly. Every week we go and see the lovely nurses at the orthopaedics department of our local hospital who check there are no problems with the harness and adjust it as she grows, marking on the harness where the straps go to, so when we take it off we know where to put them back to.

Everyone I talk to who has a child in a pavlik harness has different things prescribed for them by their consultant. Our little girl was allowed 30 minutes a day out of her harness, but others aren’t allowed any time out at all so make sure you follow your practitioners recommendations! I won’t lie, on a couple of occasions we have had her out for a little longer, for our photoshoot for example, but then we would not take it off the next day. It doesn’t seem to have had any impact on the harness working, but we have only done it a couple of times and made sure we didn’t make a habit of it.

I hope this has given you an oversight of hip dysplasia, my next post is about day to day living with a harness. Watch this space!

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