There are so many issues that can arise during pregnancy, some more concerning than others.

It is the responsibility of the pregnant woman’s doctor to monitor the health of the mother and developing baby and take care of medical issues if they arise. If the mother’s health is not properly observed, a medical condition can get out of hand and potentially cause harm to the baby or the mother. One such side effect of improper prenatal care to the developing child is a neurological condition known as cerebral palsy (CP).

Cerebral palsy can develop in pregnancy as a result of several different medical issues. While there are no certain signs of cerebral palsy when pregnant, the onset of any health problems that could cause brain damage (usually due to a lack of blood flow) to the developing baby should be caught and resolved early to avoid damage to the brain, including the development of cerebral palsy.


Cerebral Palsy and How It’s Discovered

Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that is caused by damage to a child’s brain during pregnancy, during childbirth, or in his/her first couple years of life. CP can also be accompanied by other challenges such as cognitive impairment, seizures, and disturbed vision, hearing or speech.

While many expectant mothers may wish to know during pregnancy whether or not their child will have cerebral palsy, there is no singular test for it, and diagnosis is commonly made through observation of the child’s development over time (after birth) and examination of medical history. That being said, being aware of the risk factors during pregnancy and alerting a physician to any concerns can go a long way to help avoid medical threats proactively.


Risk Factors for Cerebral Palsy

There are many risk factors for CP during pregnancy. Particularly, infections in the mother are among the concerns, including rubella (German measles), cytomegalovirus (a viral infection, normally mild) and toxoplasmosis (a typically mild parasitic infection). A bacterial infection of the membranes around the fetus, known as chorioamnionitis can also lead to cerebral palsy. In addition, if there are problems with the placenta during pregnancy (e.g., abruption or previa), the baby may not receive sufficient oxygen to the brain.

Rh disease is another risk factor for brain damage, and consequently, cerebral palsy. This condition occurs when the blood types of the mother and fetus are incompatible. It can cause jaundice, which can then lead to cerebral palsy. With proper diagnosis, the condition can usually be effectively treated to eliminate harm to the baby and mother.

Some blood clotting disorders can also be an issue. Internal bleeding or excess protein in the mother’s bloodstream may also be a risk factor, as well as hyperthyroidism.


Preventing Cerebral Palsy

With proper prenatal care and an attentive and thorough physician in the delivery room, the threat of a baby being born with cerebral palsy is very low. If you have concerns during pregnancy, discuss them with your doctor.

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