This reflex is found to activate around 18 weeks after conception and is normally integrated before twelve months of age. There are as many questions as answers about this reflex. It appears to take an active role in the birth process, with movements of the hip helping the baby to work its way down the birth canal.
In the newborn, stroking the low back to one side of the spine will result in side flexion of the lumbar spine (low back) away from that side, with raising of the hip on the same side. Stimulation down both sides of the spine simultaneously will activate a related reflex, which causes urination.
If the Spinal Galant is retained beyond normal time of integration it may be elicited at any time by light pressure in the low back region. In the classroom, the child’s belt or waistband or leaning against the back of a chair may activate the reflex, creating the ‘ants in the pants’ child who wriggles, squirms and constantly changes body position. This constant irritant affects concentration and short-term memory (as well as getting them into trouble).
Due to the neurological association with a bladder voiding reflex, children with retained Spinal Galant reflex may have poor bladder control. As the low back region is stimulated by bed sheets, the involuntary voiding reflex may be elicited so the child may continue to wet the bed despite all attempts to stop.
If the Spinal Galant reflex remains present on one side only it may affect posture and walking gait, resulting in the illusion of a limp or contributing to spinal scoliosis.
With retained Spinal Galant the infant may not be able to maintain a sitting position. It may interfere with the full development of the postural reflexes, which develop a little later in life, affecting fluency and mobility in physical activities or sports.