Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common neurological congenital disease, affecting nearly four people per 1,000 live births. Children born prematurely or with low birth weight are more likely to develop cerebral palsy. Children with cerebral palsy have motor and movement limitations. Let’s understand what cerebral palsy is and how to prevent it.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a group of disabilities and disorders that are all interrelated but have unique presentations in each child. In children, cerebral palsy is the most common motor and movement disorder caused by brain damage.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) monitor cerebral palsy through the Autism and Developmental Disability Monitoring (ADDM) CP Network. According to recent tracking from the CDC’s ADDM network, about 1 in 345 children has cerebral palsy. It is more common in boys than girls.
Many children have one or more additional neurological conditions in addition to cerebral palsy, known as co-occurring conditions. About 4 in 10 children with cerebral palsy also have the condition epilepsy.
What are the possible problems a child has with cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a congenital condition. The symptoms usually appear during the first year after birth. In children with mild symptoms, CP is difficult to diagnose until they are a few years older. Usually, children with CP show delays in reaching growth milestones. The following are the possible signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy:
- Younger babies (3-6 months old) with CP have stiff and congested bodies and their heads fall back when picked up from a flat surface.
- Babies older than six months with CP cannot roll onto their side and have difficulty bringing their hands to their mouths.
- Children older than ten months with CP develop problems crawling.
- Children have learning difficulties
- Walking and movement restrictions
- Unusual poses
- speech impediment
- Difficulty chewing or eating and excessive drooling
- Cognitive impairment
- hearing problem
- sight loss
- Joints and deformities of the spine
- Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as picking things up
- Exaggerated reflexes
- Instability of the legs or trunk due to limp or spasticity
- autism spectrum disorder
- Emotional and behavioral problems
- Slowed growth resulting in a shorter body
What Are the Causes of Cerebral Palsy?
The primary cause of cerebral palsy is abnormal development or damage to the growing brain of the fetus, which affects muscle and movement control. Brain abnormalities or damage that lead to cerebral palsy can occur before, during, or shortly after birth and within the first year of life, when the brain is still developing. Many children have cerebral palsy (80-90%) before and during birth (congenital paralysis). The possible causes of congenital CP are:
- Maternal infections during pregnancy, such as rubella (German measles), chickenpox, cytomegalovirus, and placental or fetal membrane infections, can increase the risk of cerebral palsy in children.
- Poor brain development in the first 20 weeks of fetal life
- genetic disorder
- Accidental ingestion of toxins during pregnancy
- premature delivery
- Injury to the skull or head during childbirth
- Brain damage
- Birth complications, such as uterine rupture, placental detachment, or problems with the umbilical cord during birth
- Multiple births, such as twins, triplets, or more
- Children born with assisted reproductive therapy are more likely to develop CP.
- Maternal medical conditions, such as seizures or thyroid disease
Other causes are:
- Disruption of blood supply to the growing brain
- Traumatic brain injury during the first months of life
- To attack
- Brain infections, such as meningitis or encephalitis
- Shaken baby syndrome can cause CP if the brain is not fully developed.
- Head injury from a near-drowning experience or assault
How to prevent cerebral palsy?
However, it is difficult to prevent cerebral palsy, but you can reduce the chances of your child developing CP. The following are some preventive tips to stay healthy and minimize pregnancy complications if you are planning to become parents or are pregnant:
- If you are planning to get pregnant, make sure your vaccination card has all the check marks for mandatory pre-pregnancy vaccines. Rubella and chickenpox during pregnancy can cause fetal brain damage.
- Take care of your health with a nutritious diet and exercise. Having a healthy pregnancy reduces the chance that your child will develop cerebral palsy.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco use before and during pregnancy.
- Illegal drug use during pregnancy can increase your child’s risk of cerebral palsy.
- Regular visits to your doctor and good prenatal care reduce the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, and maternal infections, which increase the risk of CP.
Children with CP may require lifelong care and rehabilitation. Many medications and therapies, such as speech therapy, physical therapy, and recreational activities, can be helpful for children with cerebral palsy.
Although cerebral palsy is difficult to prevent, the right precautions can greatly reduce the chances of it occurring.