Causes of CPAny damage to the developing brain, whether caused by genetic or developmental disorders, injury or disease, may produce cerebral palsy.
During pregnancy, anything which tends to produce a premature or low birth weight baby who is not developed enough to cope with the stresses of independent life will increase the likelihood of cerebral palsy. Factors which may cause cerebral palsy include:
(1) multiple births (e.g. twins, triplets)
(2) a damaged placenta which may interfere with fetal growth
(3) sexually transmitted infectious diseases, e.g. AIDS, herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea
(4) poor nutrition
(5) exposure to toxic substances, including nicotine, alcohol and drugs
(6) Rh or A-B-O blood type incompatibility between mother and infant
(7) chromosome abnormalities
(8) biochemical genetic disorders
(9) chance malformations of the baby's brain
(10) a labour which is too long or to abrupt can cause damage. Poor oxygen supply may destroy brain tissue.
(11) German measles during pregnancy
(12) small pelvic structure
(13) premature delivery
(14) caesarian or breech delivery
(15) effects of anesthetics, analgesics
In early childhood, cerebral palsy can occur if a young child's brain is damaged by:
(1) infections such as meningitis
(2) brain haemorrhages
(3) head injury following falls, car accidents or abuse
(4) drowning accidents
Some measures of prevention are possible today. Pregnant women are tested for the Rh factor and, if Rh negative, they can be immunized within 72 hours of giving birth. This prevents any adverse consequences of blood incompatibility in a subsequent pregnancy. Newborns with jaundice can be treated effectively with phototherapy.
Education programs stress the importance of optimal well-being prior to conception and adequate prenatal care. Safety campaigns give advice on protecting children from accidents and injury. These measures have undoubtedly prevented many children from developing cerebral palsy.
CAT scans (Computerized Axial Tonography) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), can help identify lesions in the brain. This technology may enable some children who are considered at risk of having cerebral palsy to be diagnosed very early. However, for the majority of people with CP it will be months, and sometimes years, before a diagnosis is confirmed. Many parents report that this waiting period, when they know their child is not developing at the same speed as her peers, but they do not yet know why, is particularly stressful.