What causes cerebral palsy?

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Cerebral palsy, also known as CP, is a condition that affects approximately 10,000 babies in the United States each year. It happens when a baby sustains brain damage, usually while still in the womb. This causes permanent movement disorders. Individuals who are affected by CP require lifelong care.

The brain damage that is caused by cerebral palsy interferes with normal muscle tone and control. This can lead to weakness and the inability to control movements. CP can affect a child’s fine and gross motor skills. It also affects oral motor functioning, which causes drooling and difficulty with sucking and swallowing. It can also affect a child’s balance and posture.

How an individual is affected by cerebral palsy will depend upon a number of factors, including where the damage occurred, the extent of the damage, and when the incident that caused the brain damage occurred. This article will explain the major types and causes of the condition.

Congenital CP

Cerebral palsy that happens before a newborn is 28 days old is considered to be congenital CP. It can be caused by birth injuries, conditions within the mother, or other circumstances such as placental abruption.

The following risk factors may contribute to congenital cerebral palsy:

  • Maternal infection
  • Low birth weight
  • Jaundice
  • Multiple births
  • Premature birth
  • Infertility treatments

The vast majority of all cerebral palsy cases are congenital CP. Approximately 85% to 90% of all cases fall into this category. These are the most common causes:

Birth Injury

Birth injuries that affect the part of the brain that controls motor function can cause cerebral palsy. Most birth injuries happen before an infant is born. However, many newborns who are injured are hurt during delivery. These are some of the causes of birth injuries that can lead to cerebral palsy:

  • Erb’s palsy
  • Prolonged labor
  • Oxygen deprivation
  • Medical malpractice
  • Head trauma

When cerebral palsy is caused by a medical professional’s mistake, many parents choose to speak with a personal injury attorney. A lawyer can hold the at-fault party accountable to help parents cover the cost of treatment and care.

Brain Malformation

One of the less-common causes of cerebral palsy is cerebral dysgenesis. This is a brain malformation that happens after conception. This type of abnormal brain development can be the result of an incomplete division of the brain of the fetus. It can also happen when a brain develops without being fully organized.

When a newborn is affected by cerebral dysgenesis, the extent to which they are affected will depend on the severity of their malformation. If you suspect your child is not developing normally, you should take any concerns to your pediatrician.

Acquired CP

When cerebral palsy is diagnosed more than 28 days after birth, it is considered to be acquired CP. Only a small percentage of children with the condition fall into this category. Children who are premature have a higher chance of developing the condition.

Acquired CP can happen after a brain infection like meningitis or encephalitis. It can also be caused by a lack of blood flow to the brain. This can be caused by a stroke or blood clotting issues. One other cause of acquired CP is a brain injury, whether caused by an accident or by abuse.

There is currently no cure for cerebral palsy. In many cases of CP, the cause is unknown. Therefore, there was no way to prevent it. However, there are some ways you can lower the risk to your child. Speak to your obstetrician or pediatrician to learn more about what you can do to help keep your newborn safe.


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