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rapid growth baby head circumference and autism

(30 Posts)
noheroicsplease Thu 24-Mar-11 16:21:35

My DS was born small (5lb 7oz) and pretty much on the bottom percentile for everything. Then he was unwell and after a couple of weeks, didn't start thriving until he was about 9 weeks. He was measured then for weight, height and head circumference. Today he had those measurements repeated. He is doing fabulously well - put on tons of weight and grown lengthwise - both of those he's on the 9th and 2nd percentile and catching up well. After the HV left, I measured his head because I saw that it had grown quite a lot. It was on the 2nd percentile at 9 weeks. It's now on the 50th percentile, having grown about 4 cms in 7 weeks.

This seems a lot to me, even if he's catching up. AND I have alarmed myself because I was only reading yesterday about rapid head growth in early stages being an early indicator for autism.

I feel really worried. It seems like a leap. Am I being stupid?

lovecheese Thu 24-Mar-11 16:30:24

Go back and speak to your HV or Doctor, it's obviously concerning you. DD was also low birth weight at term and on the lower centiles (can't remeber exactly, bad mother) and also started to have a large head in comparison with her body. We were under the hospital for 12 months ish, no treatment just measuring and monitoring and were discharged eventually with the line "She's fine, she's just got a big head". Roll on a few years and she is really clever, no signs of autism whatsoever, although getting bike helmets to fit is a bugger. Good luck.

noheroicsplease Thu 24-Mar-11 16:34:34

Thanks lovecheese. I really appreciate the reply.

meepymeepmeep Thu 24-Mar-11 21:45:19

My baby also has had a huge leap. He was 7lbs 8 when born and his head was less than 2nd - he is now past the 90th at 16 weeks and is 16lbs. Both my GP and HV say not to worry and that he seems bright, meeting all his milestones and is fine, they are going to remeasure in a month - I however am worried sick! Sorry to hijack noheroicsplease but I just wanted to see what others thought or if ayone has heard of or had similar wthl all being ok.

DeWe Thu 24-Mar-11 22:29:41

Ds head dropped in centiles between his birth measurement and later. He then stayed on the 9th centile.
The HV said that the first measurements can be inaccurate and the diference on 1cm can make a difference of a centile line. So that can be the reason. HTH.

noheroicsplease Thu 24-Mar-11 22:42:34

On delivery of DS I was told I had undiagnosed IUGR - he was 20grms beneath base line for low birth weight - so not by much at all, but he was tiny all over. His head was tiny - below the 0.4 percentile, so it was always unlikely to remain that way! He's gone up 2, 3 percentiles in the other areas, just more in the head. Maybe that would always have been the way. His dad had a big head when he was small. DS's first cousin has a big head. I don't know. Just worries me. Like you meepymeepmeep but there is nothing you can do except keep an eye and have it scanned if you think there's a problem.

bruffin Fri 25-Mar-11 13:53:27


My DS's head was so small that it was off the charts, but part of the reason was he had a difficult birth and his head was cone shape when he came out,poor thing. I also had pre eclampsia from 32 weeks and he was induced at 38 weeks. He was 6lb 7oz
His head ended up normal sized and in proportion to the rest of him. He is very bright (forcast a* for gcses ) although he is dyslexic, but so is DH so more than likely inherited.

Tiggles Fri 25-Mar-11 16:08:50

DS1 has a tiny head - aged 8 he is still wearing toddler sized helmets for his bike. He has severe Aspergers, but equally is very high functioning - so above average in everything in school.
DS2 has a massive head - it has always been big though, I have to buy clothes several sizes to big to get his head through. he is also being assessed for autism.
However, DH has lots of autistic traits. His head is normal!

Tiggles Fri 25-Mar-11 16:10:03

forgot to say, DS3 has a big head like his brother, he has no obvious autistic traits yet (aged 2).

meepymeepmeep Fri 25-Mar-11 21:12:18

noheroicsplease it is worrying, however as I said both my GP and HV said it was not unusual and tat there was more likely to be nothing than something so not to worry - awful hard to not (google is not your friend with things like this). Try to not fret and get your HV to take the measurements x

BialystockandBloom Fri 25-Mar-11 21:19:45

The link observed between babies/toddlers with large heads and autism has been suggested to be because the specific parts of the brain that deal with specific areas (eg language, emotions etc) develop abnormally in dc with asd, so the normal neural pathways do not develop normally, but atypical ones will, so the brain literally grows bigger as the cells increase in an atypical part of the brain.

However, this is a) just a theory, b) not failsafe in any way (eg my ds has asd and his head was quite big in the womb and at birth, but has actually got more in proportion as he gets older), and c) would never, ever be used as a criteria to diagnose autism.

How old is ds? And do you have any concerns at all about his development whatsoever? It sounds like he's a pretty young baby - if so, the theory above wouldn't apply anyway as the relevant neural pathways wouldn't have strengthened enough in any child to make an abnormal head size. It's noticed usually around 9-14 months stage, when the pathways start to really develop and strengthen. By which time other signs would probably have emerged too (though not always).

noheroicsplease Fri 25-Mar-11 23:01:02

Thanks all - really appreciate your interesting replies.

BialystockandBloom - thanks especially for the explanation. My DS is only 4 months. I have absolutely no other concerns about him. He's pretty perfect, in fact. Considering he wasn't thriving until about 7 weeks old, he is bang on target with developmental stuff and smiles nearly all the time. He's very alert and engaged.

I think my worries are probably far more to do with me, and pinning anxiety to something than it is to do with him. I'm probably the one who needs to see the doctor. blush

Karooney Sun 03-Apr-11 08:47:49

Hi noheroicsplease,

Your story is pretty much identical to mine although my little girl was 3oz heavier and is now just under 10 weeks. I too am very paranoid about the huge increase in head growth (hers jumped 5cm from birth to 6 weeks) and on seeing my GP she agreed with my concerns. I saw a paediatrician a couple of days ago who has said he would like her to have an ultrasound of her head/brain in the next couple of weeks. He did try to reassure me though by saying that although there has been a big increase in her head size it is still measuring on the middle centile so within normal ranges. Have you been to see your GP yet? If so what did they say?

Vegasgirl Sun 03-Apr-11 15:40:38

Hi nohereoicplease ,

My dd's head was one and a half centilles above her length when measured at 15 weeks and she has been remeasured a few times since. She has a final check this week and is expected to be fine as when she was measured 6 weeks ago her length had jumped a centile but her head had stayed in the same centile.

She dropped alot of weight after birth due to jaundice and feeding issues and once that was sorted has been gaining weight rapidly ever since. It was explained to me by a paediatrician that in the case of weight gain after low weight the head will always grow first and her body would catch up which appears to be the case.

This sounds alot like your DS so hopefully he will b the same - good luck

noheroicsplease Sun 03-Apr-11 16:57:00

Hello all
Karooney - I haven't seen the GP. I called the HV and she was very unconcerned, just said he was catching up. She didn't measure him last visit, but neither did she think there was anything unusual about him.

He seems to be doing REALLY well, so I feel less anxious. That said, I will mention it to my GP when I next see him for jabs.

And like you, although there has been growth, it is still very much in normal range.

I'd almost forgotten it - but now I'm anxious again...sad

Karooney Sun 03-Apr-11 17:04:50

Sorry that I have made you think about it again. I expect that the paediatrician I saw is just being cautious and covering all angles due to my GP referring me and me expressing my concerns.

noheroicsplease Sun 03-Apr-11 17:13:31

Karooney = has your DS stayed in the other percentiles for growth/weight, or has she moved up in those two? I wasn't sure why your situation was identical to mine...thanks

Karooney Sun 03-Apr-11 17:18:18

She was born with all her measurements just under the 2nd centile. Her weight is still on the 2nd centile, her length is now on the 9th centile and her head is just over the 50th centile.

noheroicsplease Sun 03-Apr-11 17:23:33

What did your GP say? What did you say your medical concerns were about the head growth...? hydrocephaly?

Thanks Karooney

DaisySteiner Sun 03-Apr-11 17:30:09

Also bear in mind that it is notoriously difficult to measure the head accurately. I had a similar thing when ds1 was 4 months old and the HV scared me half to death by saying that ds's head hadn't grown enough and he might have a problem. I panicked and went to the GP who pointed out that the HV had just measured his head wrong and he was clearly fine anyway!

noheroicsplease Sun 03-Apr-11 17:39:55

I know - it's all ridiculous panic, in many ways, because he's actually really doing so well - exceeding those stupid milestones - and I need to remind myself that not only was he born tiny, he thrived for two weeks, before getting sick and losing WEEKS, so growth is all odd and in catch up.

I really hate my anxiety!

Karooney Sun 03-Apr-11 17:57:13

I went to my GP for DD 6 week check and mentioned that my only concern was that her head looked very big in comparison to the rest of her. She agreed and confirmed it with measurements and thought perhaps the weight she gained had all gone into her head growth but said she couldn't understand why. My GP did say she was used to seeing chubby babies where mine was very skinny and thought it best to refer me. I discussed my worries with the paediatrician who reassured me by saying her head was still within normal ranges and had stayed on the 50th centile with her growth since the GP had measured her. He did confirm DD doesn't have hydrocephalous as her fontanelle was not swollen. Although he did say her fontanelle was slightly smaller than normal so with that alongside the jump in her head circumference, he wanted her to have an ultrasound within 2 weeks and then for me to go back for a review in 6 weeks when she will have grown a little more and he could see how her growth and development was progressing. He was happy with her development so far which relaxed me a bit but I am still anxious and can't wait until we have the U/sound and review. I can let you know what comes of it if you would like? Sorry if this email is a little long winded.

Karooney Sun 03-Apr-11 17:58:39

Hopefully it is due to what Vegasgirl has written re a low weight babies head grows first and then their body catches up.

noheroicsplease Sun 03-Apr-11 18:07:04

No, not long winded. Thanks for letting me know. Good luck, stay in touch over it. Am absolutely sure all will be fine; once upon a time, not so long ago, there weren't growth charts and it was probably best that way!

Karooney Sun 03-Apr-11 18:33:39

very true

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