Can you imagine not being able to walk, talk, or eat?
Sadly, research shows that 1 out of every 3 children with cerebral palsy will never be able to walk on their own, while 1 out of every 5 kids with cerebral palsy can’t talk or eat on their own. What’s even worse is these children often experience excruciating pain, every single day.
Parents across the globe find themselves having to watch their child suffer, without being able to do anything about it. Yet, while there might not be a cure, families can find hope by focusing on the prevention of cerebral palsy.
New research is revealing that even before a baby’s conceived, there are steps you can take to keep your child safe. Read on to learn what causes cerebral palsy and how to prevent it from happening to your family.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy usually occurs as a result of abnormal developments in the child’s brain. These abnormal developments can occur for a variety of reasons, with damage often being a contributing factor. The damage affects the part of the child’s brain that helps them control their muscles.
Low Oxygen Levels
In the past, medical researchers thought the prevention of cerebral palsy only relied on oxygen levels. The belief was that the main cause of cerebral palsy was a lack of oxygen during the birth process. Yet, today we now know that issues with oxygen levels only make up a small amount of cerebral palsy cases.
When Damage Can Occur
During the first year of life, crucial brain developments are taking place. A child can incur brain damage before birth, during birth, a month after birth, and during their first year of life. The type of cerebral palsy a child has will depend on when the damage occurs.
Congenital Cerebral Palsy
When cerebral palsy occurs before or during the birthing process it’s congenital. The majority of all cerebral palsy cases will fall under the congenital category.
Here are some of the common risk factors for congenital cerebral palsy:
- Low birth weight
- Premature birth
- Multiple births
- Infertility treatments
- Infections during pregnancy
- Medical issues with mother
- Birth complications
Unfortunately, lawyers for cerebral palsy cases often hear about instances where prenatal doctors fail to protect the baby’s unborn brain. As a result, the child will have one of the many risk factors that contribute to causing cerebral palsy.
Let’s take a deeper look at the most common risk factors and how they affect the brains and muscles of newborns.
Understanding Risk Factors
Looking at the list of causes and risk factors can make many parents worry. Yet, it’s important to keep in mind that having a risk factor doesn’t automatically mean a child will have congenital cerebral palsy.
Low Birth Weight
Studies show that on average, newborns should weight about 8 pounds. Low birth weight is a term that describes babies who are born weighing less than 5 pounds and 8 ounces. Children that weigh less than 3 pounds have an even higher risk of getting congenital cerebral palsy.
Luckily, medical practices have advanced significantly when it comes to helping a baby’s born prematurely. Yet, while premature babies are more likely to live now, they also have a higher risk of having congenital cerebral palsy.
When a mother gives birth to twins, triplets, or more babies at once, the risk of cerebral palsy is instantly higher. The risk goes up even more if one of the babies dies before birth, or shortly after. Sometimes the reason multiple births can cause cerebral palsy is that the babies are born prematurely or with low birth weight.
It’s not uncommon for infertility treatments to result in premature births, multiple births, or both. As a result, babies born using infertility treatments tend to have a higher risk of having congenital cerebral palsy.
Infections During Pregnancy
When a pregnant mother has an infection, it causes a rise in protein levels in their bloodstream. Specifically, cytokine proteins that circulate in the brain and blood of the baby during pregnancy. Increased levels of cytokines can lead to brain damage in an unborn child by causing inflammation.
Prevention of Cerebral Palsy
Since the majority of cerebral palsy cases occur while the baby’s in the womb, focusing on the mother’s health during pregnancy is a great place to start. This includes focusing on the mother’s health, even before she becomes pregnant.
Pre-Pregnancy Health Tips
First, make sure that any medical conditions, like diabetes, are being attended to properly. Next, future mothers should abstain from any smoking or excessive alcohol drinking. Finally, stress levels need to be under control, to help reduce the amount of cortisol present in a mother’s bloodstream.
Pregnant mothers should make sure they’re attending all of their prenatal appointments. Prenatal appointments are a great way to prevent a child from having a premature birth or low birth weight.
Next, pregnant mothers should take every precaution to avoid getting an infection. This means washing their hands often, eating vitamin-rich foods, and getting enough sleep at night. Should a pregnant mother notice they have a fever, or start to feel sick, they should contact their doctor immediately.
Before leaving the hospital, make sure the medical staff check your newborn for jaundice or yellow skin. Early detection of jaundice can often help prevent a cerebral palsy case from developing. Also, make sure your baby gets all of the shots the doctors recommend, including the ones for meningitis and encephalitis.
Early Childhood Head Injuries
So far we’ve been discussing the prevention of cerebral palsy, before, during, and immediately after giving birth. Yet, cerebral palsy cases can also occur from early childhood head injuries that happen years after birth.
Early childhood head injuries can result from car accidents, falls, shaking baby syndrome, and drowning. To prevent head injuries, parents should make sure the car seats they buy are the appropriate size for their child. This way, if there is a car accident, the car seat will be able to help protect the child’s head and brain.
Next, parents should always monitor bathtime, to avoid any risks of brain damage from drowning. Finally, when your child is old enough to ride a bike, require them to wear a helmet. While falling off a bike is a normal part of childhood, it can pose a major risk to young developing brains.
Tips for New Parents
It’s wonderful that healthcare professionals are reaching new heights in understanding the best ways to aide in the prevention of cerebral palsy. As new information is made available, parents are able to keep their children safer from brain damage than ever before.
Yet, it’s important that you don’t assume all of your friends will automatically be as up-to-date as you are on new prevention techniques. Take the time to share what you’ve learned about how to prevent cerebral palsy with other parents you know.
Want more tips on how to keep your child safe? Check out the other articles on our site today!