The Moro reflex is an instinctive reaction that occurs in newborns in response to sudden stimuli and loud noises. The absence or presence of the reflex beyond 6 months of life could indicate neurological damage.
The Moro reflex: what it is and what causes it
The reflection of Moro it’s a neonatal reflex which manifests itself as one startled reaction, accompanied by the sudden opening of the arms and stretching of the legs. It can be caused by various stimulisuch as a loud noise or abrupt and rapid shifting of the baby to the supine position. Normally, the newborn loses the Moro reflex by sixth month of life.
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Moro’s reflex: what it is
The reflection of Moro it’s a normal instinctive reflex of newborns. It is an involuntary protective motor response following a sudden loss of body balance or a sudden stimulus and manifests itself as an involuntary reaction that leads to the extension of the arms first outwards and then inwards. Ernst Moro first described the Moro reflection in 1918. It appears around the twenty-fifth week gestation and usually disappears around six months of life.
It is possible to observe the reflection of Moro pulling up the baby’s arms while in the supine position and letting go causing the sensation of falling. The production of the reflex is given by the suddenness of the stimuli and not by the distance of the fall. It is not necessary to lift the baby’s head off the bed to elicit this reflex.
The stimuli that can induce the reflection of Moro include exposure to:
- Sudden or loud noise
- Puff on the face
- Thermal stimuli (hot or cold) on the abdomen
Riflesso di Moro: why is it called that?
The Moro reflex is named after Ernst Moro, the Austrian pediatrician who first accurately described this phenomenon in 1918. The reaction is also known as the Startle reflex.
Moro’s reflex: how it manifests itself
The reflection of Moro manifests itself as a startled: initially, the child jumps and extends his arms, spreading his hands and fingers; the position remains fixed for 1-2 seconds, then the upper limbs are flexed and the fists close (clinging phase). The start usually follows the cry. After a few seconds, the Moro reflex ends, the body relaxes and the arms return to lean on the chest. The Moro reflex lasts up to about 5-6 months of life.
The Moro reflex manifests itself already in the womb: in the fetus, this phenomenon may already occur around the 28th gestational week, but reaches its completeness around the 34th week.
Normally, the newborn loses the Moro reflex within the sixth month of life. Obviously, each child is different from the other and it can happen that this phenomenon, although decreasing in intensity, disappears later in time, but it still occurs in normal situations.
If the Moro reflex does not disappear within one year of age, could be the alarm bell of a possible neurological problem, which can result in difficulties with language, balance, movement and coordination of the limbs.
Phases of the Moro reflex
The Moro reflex is divided into 2 moments:
- First stage: coincides with start or startle of the newborn. In practice, there is a sudden extension of the upper limbs with the opening of the hands and hyperextension of the fingers for 1-2 seconds.
- Second phase: one occurs cling reaction, ie a slow flexion of the upper limbs on the trunk, with the closing of the hands in fists.
Moro caused the startle reflex by hitting the pillow on which he rested the baby’s head with one hand. The pediatrician thus caused a sudden movement of the baby’s head with respect to the trunk.
Asymmetry of the Moro reflex: causes
You may also happen to notice a asymmetrical Moro reflex, that is, present only on one side of the baby’s body.
The asymmetrical Moro reflex can be caused by some alteration due, for example, to a birth trauma. Those most frequently associated with an asymmetry of the Moro reflex are:
- there brachial plexus injury
- the fracture of the clavicle
Absence of the Moro reflex: causes