With cerebral palsy, a child sustains damage to her brain either while she is still in her mother's womb or up to age 2. This neurological condition can cause several problems, such as tight joints, muscle weakness and problems eating. Each year in the United States, around 10,000 babies born will go on to develop the condition, noted the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Several risk factors exist for cerebral palsy.
If a mother has certain health problems during a pregnancy, the risk for giving birth to a child who develops cerebral palsy increases. Some of these conditions can be prevented. For example, the MayoClinic.com noted that German measles, also called rubella, can increase the risk for cerebral palsy, but mothers can prevent becoming infected by getting the vaccine. Chickenpox can also increase the risk for cerebral palsy, but mothers can also get the vaccine for this infection. Other infections can increase the risk for cerebral palsy include cytomegalovirus, toxoplasmosis, herpes and syphilis. The risk can also increase if the mother has other health conditions, such as seizures, thyroid problems and mental retardation. The NINDS adds that other risk factors involving the mother's health include exposure to toxic substances, such as methyl mercury.
The risk for cerebral palsy can increase during labor and delivery. For example, babies who are born premature or have a low birth weight have a higher risk of developing cerebral palsy. The NINDS noted that a premature birth is when the baby is born at less than 37 weeks into the pregnancy and a low birth weight is considered less than 5 ½ pounds. As the birth weight and the length of the pregnancy increases, the risk for cerebral palsy decreases.
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