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Understanding the causes of cerebral palsy

While the connection with a lack of oxygen at birth and the development of cerebral palsy in a child was a common belief in the past, New Mexico parents may be interested to know that this is now thought to be a factor in only a small number of cases. Cerebral palsy results from damage to a child's developing brain or from other abnormal development issues. The result of the condition is an impact on a child's control of muscles. Although some instances are tied to brain damage during the birth process, other cases result from brain damage in utero or in the months and years following birth.

Congenital CP refers to cases tied to a brain injury occurring prior to or during childbirth. Up to 90 percent of cases fall into this category. Common factors indicating risk of congenital CP include premature birth, low birthweight, and multiple births. Individuals suffering serious infections during their pregnancies may face an increased risk of their babies suffering inflammation that could result in brain damage. Fever and other diseases at the time of birth could expose a baby to a similar risk.

If CP occurs due to brain damage suffered more than 28 days after birth, it is referred to as acquired CP. This is typically attributed to serious infections or injuries. Encephalitis and meningitis are examples of infections that could lead to acquired CP. Automobile accidents or child abuse could also cause acquired CP cases.

Although some cases of CP may be attributed to issues that are out of the control of medical professionals, it is important to be attentive to risk factors during a pregnancy and during the first weeks following a baby's birth. If a child is born with CP, a parent may want to discuss the situation with a lawyer who is experienced with medical malpractice cases to discuss whether professional errors may have contributed to the condition.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Causes and Risk Factors of Cerebral Palsy", September 17, 2014

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