Knowing the risk factors of cerebral palsy can make all the difference during pregnancy.
There is a whole array of factors that come into play when it comes to the increased chances of an unborn child developing cerebral palsy, and understanding all of these risk factors and how pregnant mothers can mitigate them can always make a drastic difference in lessening the chances of a baby being born with the associated conditions.
Cerebral palsy is a group of conditions that drastically affects a child’s overall posture and motor skills, and it’s primarily associated with certain types of brain damage that control physical movements. Cerebral palsy symptoms range dramatically, but the condition rarely gets worse over time and physical therapy and other medical treatments tend to create significant improvements.
Contrary to popular belief, most of the risk factors associated with cerebral palsy don’t occur during labor but are actually the culmination of a sequence of events or circumstances that occur during a mother’s pregnancy. On this page we’ll discuss all the different risk factors associated with cerebral palsy that pregnant mothers should be aware of, as well as the prevention methods that can help mothers minimize the chances of their children developing the condition.
If you have any questions or concerns at all about your child and a potential birth injury lawsuit, feel free to contact us for a free consultation so we can put you in touch with a birth injury legal specialist that supports your province.
Understanding the Pregnancy Risk Factors of Cerebral Palsy
Having knowledge of cerebral palsy’s associated risk factors helps parents know what warning signs of CP to look for and what prevention methods to take throughout a mother’s pregnancy and delivery.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some of the more common risk factors or medical problems during pregnancy that can increase the likelihood of cerebral palsy include the following:
Preterm birth/low birth weight
When an infant is born before the 37th week of pregnancy or weighs less than 5.5 pounds at birth, there are generally higher risks of that child having cerebral palsy.
When a mother carries twins, triplets or multiple fetuses there are higher risks of at least one of the babies having cerebral palsy. These risks increase when one of the twins or triplets ends up passing away prior to or shortly after birth.
There are many assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) that couples will use to help induce pregnancy, but the children born from pregnancies that use infertility treatments will have a higher chance of having cerebral palsy. This is partly because ART infertility treatments will provide an increased likelihood of multiple gestations and preterm birth, as well as other potential pregnancy complications.
There are a lot of potential infections that occur during pregnancies that can lead to proteins called cytokines circulating throughout a fetus’ blood and brain, which cause inflammation and can lead to fetal brain damage. Some common types of pregnancy infections that are associated with cerebral palsy include rubella, chicken pox, toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, maternal pelvic infections, and other bacterial infections.
Fever during pregnancy
There are instances in which a mother who undergoes a fever during pregnancy or delivery can have increased chances of the fetus developing brain damage, which can sometimes result in cerebral palsy.
Blood factors not matching
There are situations in which a mother and her baby’s red blood cell proteins can differ. This protein is abbreviated as Rh, and a person is either Rh positive or Rh negative, depending on whether or not they have the protein. In the situation in which a mother’s Rh factor differs from her fetus’, the mother’s immune system can potentially attack the fetus’ blood cells. This can lead to brain damage and a lot of other birth defects, including cerebral palsy.
Toxic chemical exposure
Expecting mothers must always be very careful about the types of food they eat throughout their pregnancies, and this is because toxic chemicals like methyl mercury that’s found in some raw fish and undercooked meat can create serious health defects for a fetus. There are also certain chemicals within cat feces that expecting mothers should avoid inhaling.
A mother’s medical conditions
There’s an increased risk of cerebral palsy when a mother has serious thyroid problems, some kind of intellectual disability, suffers from seizures or even has an abnormal increased rate of protein in her urine.
Jaundice is the condition that causes an infant’s skin and eyes to turn a yellow hue, and this is a warning sign for abnormal liver function. The excess buildup of bilirubin is a common cause of jaundice, but this condition typically isn’t too serious. But, the bigger issues arise when jaundice goes untreated and the excess amounts of bilirubin then create brain damage that can then result in birth defects like cerebral palsy.
Although we’re primarily focusing on the risks associated prior to birth, there are still many instances in which an infant undergoes breathing and heart rate issues during labor, which can almost immediately increase the risks of cerebral palsy. Some of these complications can include placenta detachment, a ruptured uterus, issues with the umbilical cord during birth, and general oxygen deprivation including Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE).
Preventing Cerebral Palsy
It’s difficult even for top medical professionals to decipher the causes of congenital (before or during birth) cerebral palsy, and this essentially makes it difficult to fully understand how to prevent it from occurring during pregnancy. When genetics is an underlying risk factor, it’s nearly impossible to prevent the condition from developing.
But, the good news is that there are several preventable actions that expecting mothers can take before and during their pregnancy. So taking the following steps can help mothers ensure they’re having a healthy pregnancy that avoids all developmental issues like cerebral palsy as much as possible.
Prior to Pregnancy
- Ensure that you are as healthy as you possibly can be while you’re attempting to become pregnant, which includes mothers being treated for any health conditions and infections.
- Mothers should always be vaccinated for certain diseases like rubella and chickenpox before becoming pregnant, because as we stated earlier there are several common conditions that can harm developing babies.
- We also discussed the risk factors associated with infertility treatments, but if this is the path you are using to induce pregnancy then you should also consider transferring only one embryo to reduce the chances of twins or triplets.
- Understand healthy pregnancy practices
- Always obtain regular prenatal checkups
- Make a habit out of thoroughly washing your hands with soapy water so you can reduce the chances of incurring an infection that could harm your fetus
- Don’t hesitate to talk to your health care professional when you are showing signs of a fever, sickness or any infection
- Get a flu shot!
- Always have a good understanding of your Rh type so you can better know if there are any chances of incompatibility between you and your developing baby
- Take magnesium sulfate if a preterm delivery is in question
Contact us today to learn more about cerebral palsy prevention and potential lawsuits
If your child was born with cerebral palsy and you’re confused about how it happened, then you may require the assistance of a birth injury law expert to obtain the answers that some medical professionals will try to hide in order to avoid a malpractice lawsuit.
As always, please feel free to contact us to discuss your options for legal recourse so we can better understand your situation and answer any questions you may have about a potential birth injury claim.
Toronto birth injury lawyer Charles Gluckstein was appointed President of the Ontario Trial Lawyers’ Association from 2013-2014. Since 2014, Best Lawyers® International has consistently recognized him as a leader in the personal injury field. In 2014 he was awarded the LEXPERT Zenith Award for Leading Personal Injury Lawyer in Practice Excellence, in recognition of thought leadership and the setting of new standards for the Personal Injury Bar. In its annual publication, the Canadian Legal LEXPERT® Directory has listed Charles as being repeatedly recommended by his peers in the area of personal injury for the Toronto region.