Prevention of Cerebral Palsy

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When a child is born with Cerebral Palsy, the reasons are often because of preventable events that occur prior to birth, during the delivery process, or immediately after birth. Many professionals work diligently toward preventing Cerebral Palsy by identifying risks, developing prevention measures, and implementing educational campaigns.

Everyone has a role in preventing Cerebral Palsy

When it comes to preventing Cerebral Palsy, several entities and individuals play a role in lowering the rate of birth injuries.

After a child is diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, parents have a myriad of questions. One of the first inquiries that a parent is likely to make is, “How did this happen to my child?”

That’s a question with a multi-faceted, complex answer that differs for every child. As parents seek answers and solutions going forward, they are likely to ask, “How could this have been prevented?”

Prevention is a topic of debate, but somewhat less so than how to treat and manage Cerebral Palsy when it occurs. Preventing Cerebral Palsy, however, is a paramount concern in the medical community; it requires the involvement of the medical and research communities, as well as the government. Additionally, parents can take specific measures that greatly reduce the chance that a child will have Cerebral Palsy.

Although the medical community is learning more about how to prevent Cerebral Palsy every day, the greatest chance of preventing Cerebral Palsy exists when awareness on causes and needs is common.

Prevalence and prevention

Cerebral Palsy is the most common childhood motor disability. According to population-based studies performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cerebral Palsy affects 1.5 to 4 per 1,000 live births in the United States. The CDC’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network also estimates that 1 in every 323 children has Cerebral Palsy.

The reason prevention is so important can be seen in the faces and bodies of children with Cerebral Palsy. Current estimates outline a very human toll; Cerebral Palsy affects more boys than girls. About 77 percent of children with Cerebral Palsy suffer from spasticity; 41.8 percent could not walk independently. Another 30.6 percent had no ability to walk.

There is also a financial toll, both for families and society. Among children that were enrolled in Medicaid in 2005, the highest costs were incurred on behalf of children with Cerebral Palsy and intellectual disabilities. Medical costs for children with Cerebral Palsy were 10 times higher than for unaffected children in 2005. If a child had Cerebral Palsy and an intellectual disability, those costs were 26 percent higher. If a child was born with Cerebral Palsy in 2000, it’s estimated that lifetime care could cost $11.5 billion.

There will never be a time when all cases of Cerebral Palsy are prevented. But there are measures that can be taken by the public to stem the tide of new cases. As is true with other medical conditions, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Embodying roles

The potential for mitigating Cerebral Palsy is at its highest level when government, medicine, research, and parents successfully play their role in all prevention activities.

Government’s role in Cerebral Palsy prevention centers on funding research, collecting data, and examining causal factors through its various agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and the CDC. Because of governmental activities, we know more about Cerebral Palsy and what causes it than ever before. Because of the data compiled by the government, professionals on the front lines of preventative activities know where to allocate funding and resources.

The research community’s role is to learn more about what causes Cerebral Palsy so that measures can be made to educate and inform medical professionals and parents. The job of researchers is to ask questions. What happens in the delivery room that causes a lack of oxygen, which is a major cause of Cerebral Palsy? What genetic factors may contribute to a child’s Cerebral Palsy? What practices can an expectant mother engage in that might mitigate the chances that a child will have Cerebral Palsy? Through guided study, the goal of the researcher is to seek answers and inform the public.

The medical community’s role supersedes simply treating Cerebral Palsy. Because premature births are a major cause of the condition, the physicians, nurses and medical professionals that have direct access to expectant mothers play the pivotal role of seeing a pregnancy through birth, and addressing any complications as they come occur. The medical community is the source of advice for parents; they are the guidepost for parents that look to them to ensure a birth is event-free.

Parents play the most important role in prevention. Although not all cases of Cerebral Palsy can be prevented – complications occur in pregnancy that cannot be foreseen or addressed – parents are in the best position to ask questions, seek out information, and be advocates for their child. Through their own activities, parents to a large extent influence the health of a pregnancy.

Of course, most expectant parents are intensely interested in knowing everything they can about birth before a child is born. Preventing Cerebral Palsy in large part occurs because of a parent’s measures – a parent can look all of the medical information and research, and ask questions before, during and after the birth of a child that can change the course of how a child comes into the world.

Prevention of Cerebral Palsy is a multi-level process. The result, when all of the various factors fall into place, is a happy, healthy birth.

Prevention is possible under some circumstances

It’s true that there are some cases of Cerebral Palsy that cannot be prevented. Others, however, can be curtailed by the efforts of parents, physicians, researchers and governments.

Most of the talk surrounding Cerebral Palsy centers on what happens after a child receives a diagnosis; the topic of prevention seems to be discussed much less frequently. Too often, Cerebral Palsy is seen as a condition that cannot be prevented.

There are circumstances when it is believed Cerebral Palsy cannot be prevented, as is the case of congenital abnormalities – it’s likely not to be preventable. And, most cases of Cerebral Palsy – approximately 90 percent – are believed to be congenital.

There are, however, some measures that can be taken to prevent Cerebral Palsy.

Under what circumstances can Cerebral Palsy be prevented?

Cerebral Palsy is broken down into categories, congenital, acquired and genetic predisposition. Congenital cases are the result of brain damage that has occurred – sometimes for an unknown reasons – before a child is born. Additionally, cases where a birth complication occurs are also considered congenital.

Most acquired cases, however, occur after a child is born. A child may acquire Cerebral Palsy if he or she endured a brain injury through natural (stroke), accidental (car injury) or purposeful (shaken-baby syndrome) means, or if he or she comes down with an infection or a condition that slows blood flow to the brain. Genetic predispostion means that a child has a genetic make-up that through causal pathways may lead to Cerebral Palsy.

Measures can be taken to prevent both congenital and acquired Cerebral Palsy, but more options seem to be effective on curtailing acquired cases. In the case of genetic predisposition, a couple who is aware that they have a predisposition are able to ascertain whether they would like to conceive, adopt or foster children which can be viewed as a form of prevention to some extent.