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What is the Importance of Head Circumference in a Well-Child Exam?

If you’re a new parent, you may be a bit overwhelmed at all the doctor’s visits your child needs during their first few years. These visits are important for monitoring your child’s growth and development and watching for signs of trouble.

Gina Labovitz, MD, FAAP, at Ross Bridge Medical Center Pediatrics in Hoover, Alabama, offers well-child exams for children of all ages. Her years of experience and gentle demeanor make her the doctor of choice for many parents in the area.

When Dr. Labovitz examines a child during a wellness exam, she always measures their head. It’s a simple thing to do, but it can give her valuable information about the child's health.

Why is head circumference measured?

Head circumference is measured because it’s an easy way to tell if there’s a potential problem or if something needs to be watched. For example, if the head grows too fast, it could sign hydrocephalus or water on the brain. 

If the head grows too slowly, it could be a sign of microcephaly or a smaller head than normal. This can happen if the brain doesn’t develop properly during pregnancy or stops growing after birth. This could mean there may be developmental delays, hearing loss, vision loss, or seizures. 

What to expect

At each well-child exam, Dr. Labovitz measures your child’s head circumference around the largest area with a soft measuring tape. This area is just above the eyebrows and ears and around the back of the head. She compares these measurements to your child’s previous visits and national standards for other children in your child’s age range and sex. 

If your child’s head is growing too fast or too slow, she may ask you to bring your child back sooner to keep an eye on things. She may also send your child for tests, such as magnetic resonance imaging, to make images of the brain. 

Considerations

Don’t panic if your child’s head is bigger or smaller than average. This could be part of the normal growing process. Usually, boys have larger heads than girls. A newborn baby boy’s head circumference is about 13 ¾ inches, and girls’ heads are about a half-inch less. 

If you’re a new parent, the best thing you can do is set up routine visits for your child with Dr. Labovitz. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Ross Bridge Medical Center Pediatrics today.

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