What causes Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is not well understood. However, there are theories of what causes CP and which children are most at risk. Knowing what can cause CP can help parents prevent this disorder from occurring in the future.

Cerebral palsy can develop before birth, during birth, and even during early childhood.

Brain damage in CP prevents the brain from growing appropriately. Since babies have especially soft skulls, their brains are more vulnerable and in harm's way than adults.

The brain has many parts to it - each part is responsible for different body functions. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that controls movement and is the most susceptible to damage, which is why  most children with CP have limited mobility.

Congenital Cerebral Palsy

In most cases, cerebral palsy takes effect before or during childbirth. This form is called congenital cerebral palsy and accounts for about 85% of CP in children.

Congenital CP has been associated with a few things including: multiple births, low birth weight, jaundice, infections during pregnancy, and medical carelessness. But because CP is so little understood, it is often too hard to know what the specific cause is for an individual case of CP.

Acquired Cerebral Palsy

It’s also possible for cerebral palsy to occur after the baby is born, which is called acquired CP. This form is much less common, accounting for only 15% of CP in children. It's usually caused by an injury to the brain, such as a fall or a bad head bump. It can also be caused by blood-flow problems, such as blood clots and heart defects.

Although many CP cases are unavoidable, there are some unfortunate circumstances in which things weren’t handled in the best way possible during pregnancy or the birth itself.

Here are a few examples of medical malpractice that can lead to cerebral palsy:

  1. Improper use of forceps
  2. Excessive use of vacuum extraction
  3. Failure to notice the umbilical cord wrapped around a baby’s neck
  4. Failure to recognize and appropriately treat seizures following delivery
  5. Failure to perform a timely C-section

Five tips to help steer clear of a CP diagnosis

  1. Make sure to visit your doctor regularly during pregnancy.
  2. Make sure to bring up with your doctor any concerns you may have.
  3. Don't hesitate to get a second opinion if you're worried that something isn't right.
  4. Make sure you’re up to date with your vaccinations.
  5. Try not to get an infection during pregnancy.

It’s too hard to know if and how a child will develop CP. One slight medical mistake can lead to a lifetime of mental complications. But keeping this list in mind will put you at better odds of delivering a healthy child.

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