Cerebral Palsy Cause
Why Is My Child Injured?

The underlying cerebral palsy cause is not easy to identify. But, it is known that cerebral palsy results from brain damage that affects a child's ability to control his or her muscles. Many scientists now believe the cerebral palsy cause to be mishaps very early in brain development.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only 10% of children with cerebral palsy developed the condition after they were 30 days old. In these cases, doctors can often pinpoint a specific cerebral palsy cause, such as a brain injury in the first few months or years of life, brain infections such as bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis, or a head injury from a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or child abuse.

Most children with cerebral palsy are born with it, although it may not be detected until months or years later. This is known as congenital cerebral palsy. In this case, it is often difficult to identify the precise cerebral palsy cause.

Research has shown that few babies who experience asphyxia (a lack of oxygen) during birth grow up to have cerebral palsy or any other neurological disorder.

Complications during birth, including asphyxia, are now estimated to account for only 5 to 10 percent of the babies born with congenital cerebral palsy.

What is the cerebral palsy cause in the remaining 80 to 85 percent of cases? Some of the causes of cerebral palsy may include genetic abnormalities, maternal infections or fevers, or fetal injury.

A recent study of 585 children born with cerebral palsy between 1996 and 1999 reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association found:
- 39.5 percent of mothers reported an infection during pregnancy
- 12 percent of the children were from a multiple pregnancy
- 46 percent of the children were born premature.

According to the National Institutes of Health, four types of brain damage cause the characteristic symptoms of cerebral palsy:

Damage to the white matter of the brain (periventricular leukomalacia [PVL]):

The white matter of the brain is responsible for transmitting signals inside the brain and to the rest of the body. PVL describes a type of damage that looks like tiny holes in the white matter of an infant's brain. These gaps in brain tissue interfere with the normal transmission of signals. There are a number of events that can cause PVL, including maternal or fetal infection. The developing fetal brain is especially vulnerable to this type of injury between 26 and 34 weeks of gestation.

Abnormal development of the brain (cerebral dysgenesis):

Any interruption of the normal process of brain growth during fetal development can cause brain malformations that interfere with the transmission of brain signals. The fetal brain is particularly vulnerable during the first 20 weeks of development. Mutations in the genes that control brain development during this early period can keep the brain from developing normally. Infections, fevers, trauma, or other conditions that cause unhealthy conditions in the womb also put an unborn baby's nervous system at risk.

Bleeding in the brain (intracranial hemorrhage):

Intra-cranial hemorrhage describes bleeding inside the brain caused by blocked or broken blood vessels. A common cause of this kind of damage is fetal stroke. Some babies suffer a stroke while still in the womb because of blood clots in the placenta that block blood flow. Other types of fetal stroke are caused by malformed or weak blood vessels in the brain or by blood-clotting abnormalities. Maternal high blood pressure (hypertension) is a common medical disorder during pregnancy that has been known to cause fetal stroke. Maternal infection, especially pelvic inflammatory disease, has also been shown to increase the risk of fetal stroke.

Brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen in the brain
(hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy or intrapartum asphyxia):

Asphyxia, a lack of oxygen in the brain caused by an interruption in breathing or poor oxygen supply, is common in babies due to the stress of labor and delivery. If the supply of oxygen is cut off or reduced for lengthy periods, an infant can develop a type of brain damage called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, which destroys tissue in the cerebral motor cortex and other areas of the brain. This kind of damage can also be caused by severe maternal low blood pressure, rupture of the uterus, detachment of the placenta, or problems involving the umbilical cord.

You may not be able to identify why your child's brain was damaged during development. We weren't for our son.

Understanding the cerebral palsy cause is helpful, especially if you are at risk with future children.

But, given that you have a child with cerebral palsy, can anything be done to help? Yes. Treat the brain injury, not the cause.

There is hope.

To learn more about Cerebral Palsy, please investigate the following links:

Click here for the Cerebral Palsy Guide

Click here for Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis

Click here for Cerebral Palsy Symptoms

Click here for Cerebral Palsy Prognosis

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