What Causes Cerebral Palsy

What Causes Cerebral Palsy | Little Feet Pediatric Occupational Therapy Pediatric Speech Therapy Clinic Washington DC, Charlotte NC, Raleigh NC, St Louis MO

Cerebral palsy is a motor disability and group of disorders that affect movement, muscle tone, balance, and posture.

It affects about a million individuals in the US.

The way it can impact someone, however, can vary from person to person.

It also has several different potential causes.

However, no matter the cause of your child’s cerebral palsy, there is help available for them.

They will benefit from both pediatric occupational therapy and pediatric physical therapy, to improve their quality of life.

Continue reading to discover more about the causes of cerebral palsy and what you can do to help you child.

We Don’t Always Know What Causes Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is caused either by atypical brain development or a brain injury that happens in utero or during birth.

But we don’t always know the specific event that causes it.

In the past, it was believed most cases of cerebral palsy were caused by a lack of oxygen during birth.

As time has progressed, scientists now think this only accounts for a small number of cases.

Most cases (85–90%) of cerebral palsy are congenital and related to abnormal brain development, and the cause is often not known.

However, we do know some causes and risk factors.

The risk factors include the following:

1. Premature Birth

Kids who are born prematurely or before 37 weeks of pregnancy are at greater risk of cerebral palsy.

The more premature they are, the greater the risk.

It’s important to note that being born premature does not necessarily mean your child will develop cerebral palsy.

However, nearly half of those who develop cerebral palsy were born prematurely.

There are a few different reasons for this increased risk.

One is a low birth weight, which is considered a weight of 5 pounds 8 ounces or less.

Premature babies are also at greater risk of infections, which can be a risk factor for cerebral palsy.

2. Complications During Birth

A birth complication is a situation that can put your or your baby’s health at risk.

There are many different possible complications during birth, and some of them can increase the risk of your child having cerebral palsy.

One of the more common ones is having a particularly long labor.

Long labor can be risky, since it increases the risk of infections, brain damage, and other risk factors for cerebral palsy.

In addition, the umbilical cord and placenta help to provide the fetus with blood and oxygen from the mother, so it is critical for these to be functional.

If the umbilical cord wraps around the baby’s neck or constricts, the supply of oxygen and blood could be cut off, and the baby could struggle to breathe and suffer brain damage.

If the placenta detaches from the uterus, the baby may also not get enough oxygen and experience brain damage.

Another health complication is a tear of the uterus during pregnancy that could cause excessive bleeding, leading to brain damage.

Just like with premature babies, when a pregnancy lasts for longer than 42 weeks with no labor onset, the baby may not be getting the nutrients they need.

Inadequate oxygen to the brain could cause brain damage and increase the risk of cerebral palsy.

It’s important to note that not all of these will necessarily lead to cerebral palsy.

There is also no guarantee your baby will not develop cerebral palsy, even if you avoid any possible complications.

3. Having A Multiple Pregnancy

If your children are twins, they’re more likely to have cerebral palsy.

That risk increases if they’re triplets, or higher.

There are several reasons why a multiple pregnancy may increase the risk of cerebral palsy.

Two of these reasons are low birth weight and preterm births, because multiples tend to be smaller or born more preterm than single babies.

As mentioned before, preterm birth and a low birth rate, especially when combined, are significant risk factors for developing cerebral palsy.

We Don’t Always Know What Causes Cerebral Palsy | Little Feet Pediatric Occupational Therapy Pediatric Speech Therapy Clinic Washington DC, Charlotte NC, Raleigh NC, St Louis MO

4. Jaundice

Jaundice is a medical condition where your baby’s skin has a yellowish tint.

Normally, our red blood cells break down and produce a yellow substance, bilirubin.

This is eliminated by bowel movements or by being broken down by the liver.

Newborns have a less developed liver, and therefore there is more buildup of bilirubin, which gives the skin a yellow appearance.

Some people may think this is nothing serious.

However, jaundice is the most common cause of babies needing medical attention in the United States.

Luckily, in most cases, it’s mild and fairly easy to treat.

Severe cases, however, can cause kernicterus.

This is a life threatening condition where bilirubin builds up and enters the brain.

This can cause brain damage which may lead to cerebral palsy.

Babies born prematurely, with blood type incompatibilities, maternal infections, or brain damage are at an increased risk for jaundice and kernicterus.

5. Genetic Factors

Cerebral palsy is not, itself, a genetic condition.

But there are certain genetic factors that can influence its development.

Genetic influences can have small effects on specific genes, form gene to gene interactions, or interact with environmental factors to increase risk.

For example, if your baby’s growth is restricted in utero, it may lead to cerebral palsy.

As well, if you have preeclampsia, your baby is at greater risk for cerebral palsy.

This is a particular type of high blood pressure you may experience during pregnancy.

Genetic defects may also contribute to brain malformations.

These brain malformations can lead to cerebral palsy because they may incorrectly wire nerve cell connections interrupting the connection between the brain and muscles.

6. Other Possible Causes

Certain infertility treatments may increase the risk of cerebral palsy.

One of these is assisted reproductive technology (ART) infertility treatment, in which eggs or embryos are handled.

Children born to ART infertility treatments are at an increased risk of being born premature or as a multiple, which increases the risk of cerebral palsy.

Infections during pregnancy may also increase your risk.

Infections can increase the protein cytokine in the brain and blood, which may cause an increase in inflammation and lead to brain damage.

Common infections that are linked to cerebral palsy include chicken pox, rubella, cytomegalovirus, and bacterial infections.

Lastly, if you have a thyroid disorder, an intellectual disability, or a disorder that causes seizures, your baby may be at greater risk for cerebral palsy.

What To Do If Your Baby Has Cerebral Palsy

If your child has cerebral palsy, it may feel overwhelming and even a little frightening.

However, there is help available.

Working with a team of pediatric therapists can help your child develop to their fullest potential.

Book your appointment with Little Feet Pediatric Therapy today.


Little Feet Therapy
3535 Randolph Rd, Charlotte, NC 28211
1331 H St NW Ste 200, Washington, DC 20005
St. Louis, MO
Raleigh, NC

Founded in 2019, Little Feet Therapy offers on site pediatric physical and occupational therapy treatments for children from 2 months to 18 years old with physical and developmental concerns. Our clinics focus on providing therapy in a child’s natural setting where your child is in familiar surroundings, it puts their mind at ease and helps them focus more on the work they’re doing with their pediatric therapist. Our therapists will work with your child at your home, at school, at daycare, or another place in the community where they feel most comfortable.