Each year in the United States, about 10,000 babies develop the neurological condition cerebral palsy, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Damage to the brain either while the baby is still in her mother's womb or after birth up to age 2 can result in cerebral palsy, which causes problems with movement. Several types of cerebral palsy exist, which have different symptoms. For example, patients with spastic cerebral palsy have stiff muscles, while patients with ataxic cerebral palsy have problems with balance. But what causes cerebral palsy?
The NINDS explained that during the first 20 weeks of a fetus's development, the brain is vulnerable to factors that can affect its development. For example, cerebral palsy can result in children who have mutations in the genes, which affect how their brains develop. The MayoClinic.com noted that these mutations can be random.
Infections can contribute to the onset of cerebral palsy. For example, if the mother has an infection while she is pregnant, her baby may develop cerebral palsy. Maternal infections linked to cerebral palsy include rubella, cytomegalic inclusion disease and toxoplasmosis, listed the California Department of Developmental Services. Certain infections during early infancy may also cause cerebral palsy. These can include meningitis and encephalitis. Maternal infection or fetal infection can result in another condition that can cause cerebral palsy: periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), which is damage to the white matter of the brain. The central nervous system, which is the spinal cord and brain, is made up of white matter and grey matter. The white matter consists of myelin, which helps transmit signals between nerve cells. Damage to the white matter can affect how signals are sent from the brain.