Causes of Cerebral Palsy

The main causes of cerebral palsy are trauma or abnormalities to the brain. These can occur while the baby is still developing in the womb or at any point within the first two years. Cerebral palsy rarely occurs during the birth process whereas most cases develop during the prenatal phase while the baby is still in the womb. Many experts believe that cerebral palsy is caused by a combination of factors that exist in the prenatal, birthing, and post natal stages.

Fetal development can get impaired due to a lack of oxygen to certain areas of the brain though the exact reason is still not known. Other causes for developing brain damage and cerebral palsy are:

  • Internal bleeding in the brain
  • Infections such as meningitis, encephalitis, and herpes simplex
  • Injury or trauma to the brain
  • Maternal infections such as rubella
  • Jaundice
Risk factors of cerebral palsy include:

  • Premature babies (less than 37 weeks) are at a higher risk of developing cerebral palsy
  • Low birth weight (less than 2 pounds at birth)
  • Birth order – the first child is more likely to develop cerebral palsy or the child born fifth or later
  • Medical conditions in the mother such as thyroid problems, seizures, and infections
  • Age of the mother (older than 40 or younger than 20)
  • Age of the father (younger than 20)
  • Other birth defects which affect the brain, spinal cord, organs and metabolism
  • Rh factor incompatibility where the blood groups of the mother and baby do not match. This can increase the risk of damage to the brain while still in the fetus.
  • Genetics and heredity
  • Labor and delivery complications
  • Severe jaundice at the time of birth
  • Multiple births
  • Hypoxia or lack of oxygen that reaches the brain at any time before, during, or after the birth
  • Head injury or trauma
  • Brain infections
The presence of a risk factor does not automatically translate to the cause of the condition. If the risk factor is present, parents and health care providers need to be alert to the symptoms. There are even cases when more than one risk factor may be present, for example, multiple births and premature births. In such cases, a higher degree of vigilance is required to detect the early signs and symptoms of the condition.