Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

The big question: “How did this happen to my child?”

Each child is beautifully unique, drawing upon a variety of attributes from his or her parents for their genetics, appearance, personality, and more. A child’s blue eyes, for example, may be from their father while a genetic disposition to high blood pressure might be passed on from generation to generation on the mother’s side. Even some elements, like birth weight, can be tied to the circumstances surrounding a child’s birth, such as prematurity. But when a parent asks, “What caused my child’s Cerebral Palsy?” there often isn’t a definite answer at the ready. While it is a painful topic, finding out the reason that a child is now living with diagnosed Cerebral Palsy can not only silence the constant questions in a parent’s mind, but also open doors for future care of their child.

Cerebral Palsy is a condition caused by abnormal development of the brain or damage to the brain before, during, or after birth. Congenital CP occurs when the brain is damaged before birth, and accounts for many cases. Far less common is Acquired CP, which is a diagnosis given for a brain injury occurring more than 28 days after birth. In some cases, specific Cerebral Palsy causes are unknown, however are rarely the fault of the mother. Instead, some other common factors or causes of a brain injury resulting in CP can include, but are not limited to:

  • Gene mutations
  • Maternal/Infant infections
  • Fetal stroke
  • Improper prescriptions during pregnancy
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Damage /physical trauma to the fetus during pregnancy
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain
  • Traumatic head injury
  • Stroke while in the womb
  • Delayed delivery despite signs of fetal distress
  • Assorted medical errors before, during or after pregnancy
  • Improper medical care after delivery

Within each of these causes there are risk factors present during pregnancy and birth that can increase the likelihood of a child developing CP:   

Risk factors before birth include:

  • Medical conditions of the mother: thyroid problems, intellectual disability, seizures, and exposure to various toxins.
  • Infections during pregnancy: particularly cytomegalovirus (CMV), rubella, chicken pox, herpes, syphilis, zika virus infection, and bacterial infections, especially of the placenta, fetal membranes, or pelvis.

Risk factors after birth include:

  • Low birthweight: any weight less than 5 ½ pounds, with an increased risk at less than 2 pounds five ounces.
  • Premature birth: any birth before the 37th week of pregnancy, with an increased risk before the 32nd week.
  • Multiple births: twins, triplets, etc., with an increased risk if one (or more) baby dies before birth or shortly after birth.
  • Birth complications: such as breech presentation, detachment of the placenta, uterine rupture, problems with the umbilical cord causing disruption of oxygen supply to the baby and failing to timely perform a C-section in the face of fetal distress.

While a variety of different Cerebral Palsy types exist, and the factors resulting in the birth injury can vary, once a diagnosis has been reached the focus shifts to the extent and location of the impairment. This can help provide the stepping-stones for treatment, therapy, and the development of a care plan to assist a parent in planning for their child’s future. With a diagnosis, doctors can begin prescribing treatments to help a child combat, and possibly even overcome, the challenges associated with their special needs. Known as early intervention, these treatments assist the brain in learning new pathways to accomplish goals, while also allowing for emotional, social, and physical development (among a variety of other treatment opportunities). A diagnosis may also help in requesting assistance from organizations locally, as well as nationally.

We would be happy to help you explore those opportunities - we just need to speak with you! If you have additional questions about Cerebral Palsy causes or your child’s diagnosis, call the MyChild Care Team at (800) 693-4453. All of our assistance is provided free of charge and is aimed at helping your child reach his or her full potential.