Risk Factors for Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is a complex medical condition without a singular known cause. Although pinpointing the exact cause of cerebral palsy can be difficult, there are a number of known risk factors affecting both the mother and child, that increase the chance that an infant will develop this neurological condition. Having a greater understanding of the common risk factors for cerebral palsy can inform expectant mothers and allow women and their doctors to take measures to minimize these risks.
What are the Risk Factors for Cerebral Palsy?
The medical community generally agrees that a compilation of factors contributes to the development of cerebral palsy. While a causal relationship is unlikely, the following factors in whole or in part have been recognized as increasing the likelihood of a child developing cerebral palsy:
Triplets, twins, and other multi-child births are associated with a higher risk of cerebral palsy, particularly if one or more of the children dies shortly before or after birth. Multiple births also lend themselves to low birthweight, discussed below.
According to several medical studies, children who weigh less than 5.5 lbs at birth—and particularly children who weigh under 3.5 lbs—have a greater risk of developing cerebral palsy.
Prolonged or Premature Birth
If labor lasts over eighteen hours, an infant has an increased risk of developing cerebral palsy. Premature birth can also be a risk factor. Children who are born before the 37th week of pregnancy, and especially if they are born before the 32nd week, have a greater chance of developing cerebral palsy. Birth complications—detachment of the placenta, uterine rupture, problems with the umbilical cord, etc.—also increase cerebral palsy risk.
If an expecting mother develops an infection during pregnancy, that infection may cause neurological damage to the child. For example, if a pregnant woman suffers from rubella, chickenpox, mercury poisoning, zika virus, cytomegalovirus, or sexually transmitted diseases—or if the woman is exposed to toxins like mercury—the woman’s infant bears increased risk of developing cerebral palsy.
Illness Suffered by the Infant
If an infant develops a case of bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis—conditions that cause an inflammation of membranes around the spinal cord or brain—that infant bears an increase cerebral palsy risk. Similarly, if a child develops severe or untreated jaundice, that can lead to an increased risk of cerebral palsy. Jaundice is the yellow color seen in the skin of many newborns. If jaundice goes untreated for a prolonged period, it can lead to a form of brain damage called kernicterus, which can in turn cause cerebral palsy.
Assisted Reproductive Technology
Pregnancies made possible by assisted reproductive technology—including in vitro fertilization, embryo transfer, intrafallopian transfer, zygote transfer, and frozen embryo transfer—are associated with an increased risk of cerebral palsy. This is true in part because these pregnancies have been linked to a greater chance of preterm delivery, multiple births, or both, all of which risk factors correspond to a heightened likelihood of an infant developing cerebral palsy.
Maternal Medical Conditions
If a mother suffers from thyroid problems, seizures, developmental disabilities, or preeclampsia, among other medical conditions, her child has a greater chance of developing cerebral palsy.
When a Doctor Fails to Identify Cerebral Palsy Risk Factors in New Jersey
Caregivers and prospective parents can reduce the likelihood of a child developing cerebral palsy by seeking early and continuous prenatal care, ensuring proper vaccination, and generally practicing sound self-care based on the advice of a doctor. Unfortunately, sometimes healthcare providers fail to identify risk factors for cerebral palsy or take action to reduce the likelihood that a child will suffer from this condition. When this occurs, parents and caregivers may take legal action to obtain compensation for the ongoing care of their child and others financial and emotional costs incurred. If you suspect medical negligence during pregnancy or childbirth contributed to your child’s cerebral palsy, call our New Jersey Cerebral Palsy Attorneys now at 866-708-8617 to discuss your legal options.
Additional Information about Cerebral Palsy: