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Knowing the Risk Factors of Cerebral Palsy

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Cerebral Palsy related image Photo: Getty Images

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.

Conditions Involving the Mother's Health

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.

Birth-Related Risks

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. However, if the mother is carrying multiple fetuses, even if the pregnancy is full-term, those babies have a higher risk of cerebral palsy. During labor and delivery, if the baby suffers from respiratory problems or vascular problems, she has a higher risk of cerebral palsy. A low Apgar score, which is the number rating given to a newborn that represents her condition, is another risk factor. Babies who are breach births, in which they are feet-first instead of headfirst, have a higher risk of the neurological condition.

Other Risk Factors of Cerebral Palsy

Other conditions can increase the risk of cerebral palsy. If the mother and baby have an incompatible Rh blood type, which is either positive or negative, the risk for cerebral palsy can increase. If the mother and child have different Rh blood type, the mother's body will produce antibodies that attack her baby's blood cells. The NINDS points out that in the United States, Rh incompatibility is tested and treated. If the baby has viral encephalitis, bacterial meningitis, untreated or severe jaundice, or seizures, her risk of cerebral palsy is also increased.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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