Cerebral palsy is named, quite literally, for the two areas affected: the brain (cerebral) and the symptoms seen in the body (palsy, meaning a lack of control- often with muscles). Essentially, the brain has a problem with telling the body what to do so the body tends to lack control. A person with this condition can also have mental impairment but that's not always the case. There are no sure-fire circumstances that cause cerebral palsy which means there's no way to prevent it completely, although some preventative steps can be made to ensure the healthiest birth possible.
CP can occur for several reasons.
A brain malfunction or brain hemorrhage as the baby grows in the womb can cause cerebral palsy.
Mothers who use certain medications, smoke or have an accident or seizure while pregnant can also risk having a baby that develops this condition. Other risk factors include the mother being under the age of 18 or over the age of 34 and not having proper prenatal care. It's important that pregnant women take good care of their bodies.
There are also events that happen at birth that can cause a child to develop cerebral palsy - often events that could have been prevented (something like having a C-section or actually not having one, depending on the circumstances, or failure to intervene during delayed labor), which is why daytime television commercials are filled with lawyers offering their services to the parents of babies and children with the condition.
Infections of the mother or child during pregnancy or birth, like herpes or measles can be a cause. Bacterial infections are also a cause. Premature births and low weight babies also see an increased risk.
A child born with no health issues can also be affected through ill-treatment (especially Shaken Baby Syndrome that causes brain damage), accidents that affect the brain or illnesses like meningitis.
All prospective or soon-to-be parents can view a detailed checklist, especially made for cerebral palsy. It can be found at the My Child With Cerebral Palsy website. New parents should look for symptoms like lack of movement, poor muscle control or slow/little physical development.