What Are The
Early Signs of Cerebral Palsy?

Early signs of cerebral palsy usually appear before a child reaches 3 years of age, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Parents are often the first to suspect that their baby's motor skills aren't developing normally.

Typically, a sign of cerebral palsy in infants is a developmental delay. They are slow to reach developmental milestones such as learning to roll over, sit, crawl, smile, or walk.

Our son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 4 months old, but for many months after that, he still didn't smile.

Another sign of cerebral palsy in some infants is abnormal muscle tone, either hypotonia (relaxed) or hypertonia (rigid).

Signs of cerebral palsy may also include unusual posture or favoring one side of the body when the child moves.

According to the NIH, a low Apgar score at 10-20 minutes after delivery can be a sign of cerebral palsy. Although a low Apgar score can signal other potential problems as well. However, as we saw with our son, who had a good Apgar score, this is not necessarily a good indicator.

Children who are born prematurely (less than 37 weeks into pregnancy), or have a very low birth weight (less than 5 ½ pounds at birth), or are part of a multiple birth (twins, triplets, etc) are more likely to have cerebral palsy.

Pre-term birth (when a baby is born before 32 weeks gestation) is the highest risk factor for cerebral palsy. Approximately 10 percent of all newborns are born prematurely. Of those babies, more than 10 percent will have brain damage that result in cerebral palsy and other brain-based disabilities.

In addition, a difficult pregnancy including infections, bleeding, and fevers also might make it more likely that a child will have cerebral palsy.

Medical conditions during labor and delivery, and immediately after delivery, also act as warning signs for an increased risk of cerebral palsy. Warning signs may include breech position, complicated labor and delivery, severe jaundice, and infant seizures. These may all indicate a higher risk of being diagnosed later with cerebral palsy.

Although congenital cerebral palsy is a condition that is present at birth, a year or two can pass before any signs of cerebral palsy are noticed. Researchers have shown that the earlier rehabilitative treatment begins, the better the outcome for children with cerebral palsy.

But an early diagnosis of cerebral palsy is hampered by the lack of diagnostic techniques to identify brain damage or abnormalities in infants.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
early signs of cerebral palsy may include the following:

A child over 2 months with cerebral palsy might:
- have difficulty controlling head when picked up
- have stiff legs that cross or "scissor" when picked up

A child over 6 months with cerebral palsy might:
- continue to have difficulty controlling head when picked up
- reach with only one hand while keeping the other in a fist

A child over 10 months with cerebral palsy might:
- crawl by pushing off with one hand and leg while dragging the opposite hand and leg
- not sit by himself or herself

A child over 12 months with cerebral palsy might:
- not crawl
- not be able to stand with support

A child over 24 months with cerebral palsy might:
- not be able to walk
- not be able to push a toy with wheels

If your child exhibits one or more of these possible signs of cerebral palsy, you should discuss the problem with your child's pediatrician.

These early signs of cerebral palsy can help you obtain a proper diagnosis as soon as possible. Early diagnosis will allow you to begin treating your child.

The sooner you begin treatment, the better your chances are of helping your child get better.

And, remember, there is hope for your cerebral palsy child to get better.

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 Causes

Click here for Cerebral Palsy Symptoms

Click here for Cerebral Palsy Prognosis

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