Causes and Risk Factors of Cerebral Palsy


Cerebral palsy is a condition that is most often associated with birth injury. It is also a condition caused by the abnormal development of an infant’s brain. When a child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, they will have difficulty controlling their muscles throughout the course of their life.

While scientists used to believe that cerebral palsy was mainly caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain during labor and delivery, it is now believed that this is the cause of only a small number of cases. It is now believed that brain damage that leads to cerebral palsy can occur before or during birth or sometime in the child’s first year of life.

Acquired Cerebral Palsy

Acquired cerebral palsy is exactly what it sounds like: CP that is acquired during or after birth. There are risk factors associated with acquired cerebral palsy that every parent should be aware of. These include:

  • Developing brain – Infants are at the greatest risk of developing cerebral palsy through a brain injury. The brain is still forming, and trauma can affect its development.
  • Low birth weight – Infants who are born preterm or with a low birth weight are at a higher risk for developing acquired CP.
  • Infections – Brain infections that are caused by not being vaccinated put a child at risk.
  • Injury – Again, injury to the brain puts a child at risk of acquired cerebral palsy.

Congenital Cerebral Palsy

Congenital cerebral palsy is attributed to brain damage that occurs before or during the birthing process. Between 85 and 90 percent of CP is thought to be congenital. In some cases, in fact, in many cases, the exact reason that an infant develops cerebral palsy is not known.

Certain risk factors have been associated with congenital cerebral palsy. These include:

  • Low birth weight – Children who weigh under five pounds at birth have a higher chance of developing cerebral palsy.
  • Premature birth – Children who are born before the 32nd week of pregnancy stand the greatest chance of being born with or developing CP. While advances in medical care for premature babies has grown, there are still risks.
  • Multiple births – When a parent gives birth to multiple children, those children are at a greater risk for CP. This is especially true if one of the infants dies prior to birth or just after.
  • Infections – When a mother experiences an infection during pregnancy, her child may have a heightened risk of developing cerebral palsy. Fever, certain proteins, and some types of infection have been known to damage the developing brain of the fetus.
  • Birth complications – Certain complications that occur during the delivery process put children at a greater risk for developing cerebral palsy. These complications include uterine rupture, placental detachment, and problems with oxygen delivery to the infant’s brain.

Preventing Cerebral Palsy

Although the causes of congenital cerebral palsy are not always known, acquired cerebral palsy may be preventable. Before pregnancy, it is advised that a woman be as healthy as possible. Any health conditions should be properly controlled before the woman becomes pregnant.

A woman who is planning on getting pregnant should be vaccinated for diseases that could cause problems for a developing fetus. Vaccinations for chicken pox and rubella should be administered before the woman becomes pregnant. If a woman is undergoing assistive therapies to become pregnant, steps should be taken to reduce the chance of a multiple pregnancy.

During pregnancy, the mother should get routine medical care. An expectant mother is advised to wash their hands frequently to avoid becoming sick, and a flu vaccine is advisable prior to the start of flu season. Women who are pregnant should be aware of their blood type. Rh incompatibility between mother and fetus can cause jaundice and other complications. There are ways to prevent these problems.

Any woman at risk for a premature birth should speak with their doctor about their options. Once the child is born, vaccines are an important factor in the reduction of risk of CP. Steps should also be taken to prevent injury to the child, especially to the brain. parents should always use the correct car safety seats, “baby proof” the home, and carefully supervise their infants.

Cerebral palsy is a serious condition that impacts the life of not only the child, but the entire family. In the most severe cases, children with cerebral palsy need lifelong care. In most cases, children will need several types of therapies in order to develop typically or as typically as possible.

If your child was diagnosed with acquired cerebral palsy as a result of a medical professional’s error or negligence, you have legal rights. Reach out to our New York birth injury attorneys today for a free case evaluation. We will review the details of your child’s diagnosis and advise you of those rights. Call today to schedule your free case evaluation.

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