Three Birth Defects For Which Physiotherapy Can Help

Was your child born with a birth defect? While physiotherapy is certainly not a cure, it might be able to help your child acquire gross motors skills and help them function as independently as possible as they grow. Here are three types of birth defects for which physiotherapy can be of benefit to your child.   

Periventricular Leukomalacia

This type of brain damage is most common in babies born before they reach 32 weeks gestation and weigh less than 3.3 pounds. Periventricular Leukomalacia (PVL) is typically caused by a decrease in blood flow to the brain. As a result, brain tissue dies leaving behind white fluid-filled cysts that either fuse together or collapse.

The affected parts of the brain are usually the ones that control the movement of the body. It's very common for babies born with this defect to be diagnosed with cerebral palsy later on in life. Physiotherapy is often recommended for babies with a diagnosis of PVL as a way to help develop motor skills, and to reduce spasticity and high muscle tone in the extremities.

Congenital Heart Defect

Congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect in the world. In Canada, one in 80 to 100 newborns are diagnosed with a heart defect. These defects can range anywhere from having a small hole in the heart that is fixed with a simple surgery, to a more severe defect requiring several surgeries, medication, and a lifetime of medical care. Children with severe heart defects, such as hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), are often behind in their physical development. This can be attributed to tiring easily due to a lack of oxygen. Physiotherapy can help children with severe heart defects to gain strength and meet certain milestones such as sitting on their own and walking independently. 

Spina Bifida

Meaning "split spine," this defect occurs when the spinal column doesn't close all the way while in the womb. One out of every 750 babies in Canada has this birth defect. Though the condition does not cause a child to be paralyzed, it does cause permanent disability. Children with spina bifida have physical impairments that make it hard for them to get around. The use of mobility aids such as crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs can help. Physiotherapy also plays a role in helping them learn and recognize both their physical abilities and their limitations.

If your child was born with one of the above types of birth defects, you can ask your pediatrician to recommend a pediatric physiotherapist (such as one from Citadel Physiotherapy).