Cerebral Palsy Causes
While some causes are unknown, several causes of cerebral palsy have been identified by way of medical research. Many of the causes are preventable.
Insufficient oxygen and / or poor blood flow to a fetus or newborn is a main cause of cerebral palsy. There are many causes associated with this including, fetal distress, premature separation of the placenta, labor that lasts too long or anesthesia errors. This is not an exhaustive list and there may be other causes.
Some of the known causes of cerebral palsy include:
- Infections during pregnancy – Certain infections in the mother including rubella (german measles), cytomegalobirus (an unusual mild viral infection) and toxoplasmosis (an unusually mild parasitic infection), can cause brain damage and result in cerebral palsy. Recent studies suggest that maternal infections involving the placental membranes (chorioamnionitis) may contribute to cerebral palsy in full term as well as pre-term babies (those born before 37 complete weeks of pregnancy). A 2003 study at the University of California, San Francisco, found that full term babies were four times more likely to develop cerebral palsy if they were exposed to chorioamnionitis in the womb. Reproductive/urinary tract infections may also increase the risk of pre-term delivery, another risk factor for cerebral palsy.
- Insufficient oxygen reaching the fetus – for example, when the placenta is not functioning properly or it tears away from the wall of the uterus before delivery, the fetus may not receive sufficient oxygen.
- Prematurity – Premature babies who weigh less than three and one-third pounds are up to thirty times more likely to develop cerebral palsy than full term babies. Many of these tiny babies suffer from bleeding in the brain, which can damage delicate brain tissue, or develop periventricular leukomalacia, destruction of nerves around the fluid filled cavities (ventricles) in the brain.
- Asphyxia – Asphyxia, lack of oxygen, during labor and delivery.
- Blood diseases – Rh disease and incompatibility between the blood of the mother and her fetus can cause severe jaundice and brain damage, resulting in cerebral palsy. Rh disease usually can be prevented by giving an Rh negative woman an injection of a blood product called Rh Immune Globulin around the 28th week of pregnancy and again after the birth of an Rh positive baby. Blood clotting disorders (thrombophilias) in either mother or baby may also increase the risk.
- Severe jaundice – Jaundice, yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes caused by the build up of a pigment called bilirubin in the blood, occasionally becomes severe. Without treatment, severe jaundice can pose a risk of permanent brain damage resulting in athetoid cerebral palsy.
- Other birth defects – Babies with brain malformations, numerous genetic diseases and other physical birth defects are at increased risks of cerebral palsy.
- Acquired cerebral palsy – About ten percent of children with cerebral palsy acquire it after birth due to brain injuries that occurred during the first two years of life. The most common causes of such injuries are brain infections such as meningitis and head injuries.
While most doctors, nurses, midwives and hospital technicians provide a high standard of care for their patients, unfortunately, many families are harmed by medical mistakes and errors. Medical mistakes are responsible for many birth injury cases and it would be impossible for a parent alone to determine if medical malpractice caused their child’s injury.
Parents of a child suffering with cerebral palsy may want to contact a member of The James Law Firm, P.C. to research the cause of their child’s condition. Members of The James Law Firm, P.C. can assist you with answering these questions.