Cerebral Palsy - What Increases Your Risk
Risk factors before birth
Babies born to teen mothers or to mothers age 35 and
older have a higher risk for cerebral palsy (CP).
Also, a baby's risk
for developing a brain abnormality or injury that leads to CP increases when
the mother has certain problems during her pregnancy. These problems may include:
- Infections, such as
cytomegalovirus infection (CMV), chorioamnionitis, and
- Exposure to certain
medicines, such as thyroid hormones, estrogen, or methotrexate.
- Use of alcohol or
- Other problems, such as bleeding in the uterus
during the sixth to ninth month of pregnancy, large amounts of protein in the
urine (proteinuria), or high blood sugar levels.
Premature birth and low birth weight
About half of all children who have
cerebral palsy (CP) are born
prematurely.1 The risk of a
baby having CP increases as the birth weight decreases.
A baby who is born
prematurely usually has a low birth weight, less than
5.5 lb (2.5 kg). But full-term
babies can also have low birth weights. Multiple-birth babies are more likely
than single-birth babies to be born early or with a low birth weight.
with CP had a disruption in the normal development of parts of their brain
during fetal growth. Low-birth-weight, premature babies are more likely than full-term,
normal-weight babies to have had developmental problems during fetal growth
that can injure the brain. For example, a condition called
periventricular leukomalacia, or PVL, which reflects injury to the white matter
of the brain, is more likely in babies born prematurely than in those born at
Risk factors for cerebral palsy at birth
cases, some babies develop CP as a result of complications during the mother's
pregnancy or at birth. Risk factors include:
- Premature birth. Premature babies are more likely to have bleeding in the brain (intraventricular
hemorrhage, or IVH) or a brain injury called periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). Either of these problems may cause CP.
- Difficult or prolonged
- Brain infection or physical trauma can increase a baby's risk of getting CP.
- A lack of oxygen also increases a baby's risk. This isn't common.
- CP can itself cause a
baby to have a difficult birth because of body movement and posture problems
related to the condition.
- Placenta abruptio. The placenta usually separates from
the wall of the uterus several minutes after the birth of the baby. But if it
separates before the baby is born, the baby loses the blood and oxygen supply
from the mother.
- Infections in the mother's uterus or vagina, such as
strep infections, that transfer to the baby during
Risk factors after birth
Risk factors for
developing CP just after birth or within the first 2 or 3 years of life are
related to brain damage. They include:
- A serious illness, such as severe
lead poisoning (very rare).
- A serious
head injury from an accident or fall. This includes injury to a baby from
shaking, throwing, or other force (shaken baby syndrome).
of oxygen to brain tissues, such as the result of a brain tumor or a
- Having some kinds of blood-clotting or