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Infant mortality in the United States is a cause of concern. It ranks among the top ten causes of death. Up to the end of the first year of life, nearly three hundred babies die every day. The countries with some of the lowest infant mortality rates are Sweden and Holland. In those countries, most deliveries are carried out by midwives and anesthesia; surgery and drugs are little used during childbirth in those countries. What are some of the causes for development problems?
The skull of the infant is highly vulnerable to the forces of labor. Adaptive deformities all too soon become a part of the permanent conformation. Many of these happenings are microscopic and considered not important. However, if undetected or unattended to, the manifestation of nerve injury or disturbed development potential is not too long in presenting itself. A root cause of these problems is failure to recognize the mobility of skull bones and the effects produced when there is interference with cranial motion and its effects on circulatory patterns of blood and cerebral spinal fluid. No part of the nervous system can be disrupted without widespread repercussions. The potential for good of cranial adjusting in the first few hours of life far exceeds what may be accomplished later.
The skull of the fetus is highly vulnerable to the forces of labor. It is very pliable and designed to be squished and collapsed as it passes through the birth canal. It is this pliability that can be a source of problems. I remember the birth of my third child who came out bluish and not breathing. It was not until his skull began to expand (quite a remarkable sight) that he began to breathe. The cranial concept and its application is among the most valuable and significant preventative "medicine" procedures. Its potential for good is especially appropriate in the first few hours of life.
The distortion of the membranous or cartilaginous aspects of the skull can cause adaptive deformities, which can become a part of permanent skull shape. Although it is beyond proving, I once treated an acromegalic individual (someone whose production of growth hormone by his pituitary continued at childhood levels and above throughout his life). He had a most peculiar skull. The occiput bone (the one in the back of the head at the base of the skull) overlapped the two bones on the top of his head, the parietal bones, and created what felt like a shelf, creating a gully of about 1/4 inch. "So what?" you say. Well, the normal relationship between these bones is that they should meet each other and form a smooth even surface on the skull. With his configuration, I can assure you that there would be abnormal forces and pressures in the brain affecting circulation and cerebral spinal fluid circulation. Also there would be inappropriate tensions on the dural membranes, which separate different brain structures and could very likely interfere with proper pituitary function. It is too late to make him less than seven feet tall now, but what might have been his future if he had his cranium checked as an infant and this unusual cranial problem had been discovered then?
As I said, the skull of the infant is highly responsive to mechanical forces. The growth of the infant skull depends largely on the growth of the brain, which is quite immature at birth. All the nerve cells are present at birth and, if severely injured, do not regenerate. It is the minimal injuries of "no apparent clinical significance" that too often go undetected and are so often responsible for problems of development and growth later during infancy. "As the twig is bent, so grows the tree."
At the age of one, the skull has doubled in size. Serrations gradually appear on the bones, probably in response to the physiological motion of the bones. By age three, the sutures have closed and the serrations are developing. By age six, the cranial base is about adult size. The foramen magnum is full sized. Growth slows until puberty, at which time a second period of growth occurs, which is the most noticeable in the face.
Non-fatal brain injury is little understood in the medical world. An apparently slight accident at or around the time of birth may cause a minimal brain lesion, which may lead to extensive problems later as development progresses. There are several difficulties in appraising such minor injuries: the lack of knowledge of developmental neurology, incomplete history of the birth/delivery and lack of adequate neurological and functional examination of the newborn.
Facial bones and the cranial skeleton have different growth periods and rates. Being linked together structurally, abnormalities in one may add to the problems in the other and lead to a whole host of complications later, especially in the area of eye, ear, nose and throat conditions, as well as allergies. "The child will out grow it" all too often leads to a life-long disability.
How do you know when to bring a child or an infant to a chiropractor? What might be some of the indications or symptoms that a parent might see? How old must the child be before it is safe to see a chiropractor? I will answer these questions and more in my future articles.
And remember...If it's not a medical problem, there just may be a chiropractic solution.