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What is hypocalcemia?

Hypocalcemia is when there isn't enough calcium in the blood. Hypocalcemia in babies is called neonatal hypocalcemia. Your baby can get it at different times and from different causes.

  • Early hypocalcemia happens in the first two to three days of life.

  • Late hypocalcemia starts in the first week or weeks after birth, usually after several days of formula feedings. Some formulas have high levels of a chemical called phosphate. This can lower blood calcium levels.

What causes hypocalcemia?

Doctors do not know what causes early hypocalcemia. Late hypocalcemia has a number of known causes. It may be connected to calcium and phosphorus levels in the body. It can also be caused by a problem with parathyroid hormone. Parathyroid hormone is made by the parathyroid glands in the neck. It helps regulate the levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood. Low parathyroid hormone levels can cause the blood calcium to be low. A number of conditions, such as DiGeorge syndrome, may cause low parathyroid hormone levels.  

Hypocalcemia is more common in premature and low birthweight babies. This is because their parathyroid glands are less mature. It can also occur in babies who have a difficult birth and in babies of diabetic mothers.

What are the symptoms of hypocalcemia?

Symptoms of hypocalcemia may not be obvious in newborn babies. Most infants have no symptoms. If a baby does have symptoms, they may include:

  • Irritability

  • Muscle twitches

  • Jitteriness

  • Tremors

  • Poor feeding

  • Lethargy

  • Seizures

The symptoms of hypocalcemia may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always see your baby's health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is hypocalcemia diagnosed?

Your baby's health care provider will do a complete medical history and give your baby a physical examination. Tests to check the amount if calcium in the blood are needed to diagnose hypocalcemia.

Treatment for hypocalcemia

Hypocalcemia may get better without treatment in some cases, especially if there are no symptoms. However, specific treatment for hypocalcemia will be determined by your baby's health care provider based on:

  • Your baby's age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the disease

  • Your baby's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • Supplemental calcium gluconate (a form of calcium that is easily absorbed) given by mouth

  • Intravenous (IV) calcium gluconate