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What is hypocalcemia?

Hypocalcemia is a condition in which there is too little calcium in a baby's blood. A common form of hypocalcemia in babies is called neonatal hypocalcemia. This condition may occur at different times for different reasons:

  • early hypocalcemia: occurs in the first three days of life
  • late hypocalcemia: develops between the fifth to 10th days of life, usually after several days of formula feedings

Hypocalcemia | Symptoms & Causes

What are the symptoms of hypocalcemia?

Symptoms of hypocalcemia may not be obvious in newborn babies. The following are the most common symptoms of hypocalcemia:

  • irritability
  • muscle twitches
  • jitteriness
  • tremors
  • poor feeding
  • lethargy
  • seizures

What causes hypocalcemia?

The causes of early hypocalcemia are unknown, while late hypocalcemia has a number of known causes, related primarily to calcium and phosphorous levels in the body as well as parathyroid hormone function.

Hypocalcemia | Treatments

How do we treat hypocalcemia?

Hypocalcemia may get better without treatment in some cases, especially if your baby has no symptoms. However, specific treatment for hypocalcemia will be determined by your baby's physician and may include:

  • supplemental calcium gluconate (a form of calcium that is easily absorbed) given by mouth
  • intravenous (IV) calcium gluconate

How Boston Children's Hospital approaches hypocalcemia

If your baby has hypocalcemia, she'll likely spend some time in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), where her nutrition will be carefully monitored. Many babies in the NICU receive essential fluids and electrolytes through a tube in a vein called intravenous (IV) fluids. Some babies may need a special preparation called parenteral nutrition, which contains nutrients they need until they are able to take milk feedings.

  • The contents of IV fluids and parenteral nutrition are carefully calculated for each baby. Calories, protein, fats, and electrolytes, including sodium, potassium, chloride, magnesium, and calcium, are all important components.
  • Babies need calories, protein, and fats for adequate growth and development. Fluids, electrolytes, and vitamins are necessary for her body to function properly.
  • Blood tests help determine how much of each component a baby needs and the amount of each nutrient can be increased or decreased accordingly.
  • We will weigh your baby regularly and monitor her urine output.

Hypocalcemia | Programs & Services