Causes & Risk Factors of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) is an inactive neurologic condition that results from a brain injury before complete cerebral development. The word ‘cerebral’ refers to the brain, while ‘palsy’ means weakness in body movement. CP is the primary cause of movement disabilities in kids.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CP affects at least 4 out of every 1000 children. CP is a group of brain disorders that affect the movement, tone, and posture of muscles.

Brain damage that results in CP usually happens due to complications during birth. But it can also occur within a year after birth, while the brain is still in the development process.

The symptoms of CP vary in every kid and range from minor to severe. Some patients with CP might have trouble grasping objects while may suffer from difficulty in walking. From joint stiffness to muscle floppiness, CP symptoms may vary according to the seriousness of the disease and the type of CP.

Spastic CP, Ataxic CP, Athetoid (dyskinetic) CP, and Hypotonic CP are the four types of cp that affect the symptoms. If there is any symptom of CP in a child, the person should immediately call the doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment are beneficial.

There are different causes of abnormal development of the brain alongside several risk factors, stated as follows:


Studies have shown that from 70% to 90% of CP cases arise during pregnancy. Even after a healthy birth, the kid is under the threat of CP. 5% to 10% of children suffer from CP after being born healthy. Moreover, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics proved that the risk of CP during labor is 10% to 20%.

The possible causes of CP are:

  • Maternal infections.

Maternal infections during pregnancy are the higher cause of brain damage in kids. Asymptomatic infections are the most dangerous ones as the pregnant woman doesn’t even know about this infection. In addition, Rubella, Syphilis, Cytomegalovirus, Toxoplasmosis, Herpes Simplex, Parvovirus, and many other bacterial and viral disorders are causes of CP before birth.

  • Genetic mutations.

Until 2016, the essential opinion was that genetic mutations are only 2% responsible for CP cases. Nonetheless, a research group has proved that genetic mutations cause 14% of CP cases.

  • Fetal Hypoxia.

Deprivation of oxygen supply at the tissue level is known as Hypoxia. Before birth, a child can suffer from a severe lack of oxygen. During placental insufficiency, the child is at the most risk of Hypoxia, leading to brain damage.

  • Asphyxia

Asphyxia is the principal cause of CP during labor. It is the severe oxygen deprivation in the tissues and blood of the child. It is specifically dangerous for the brain. It occurs due to complications like too long delivery or placental abruption.

  • Acute jaundice.

Increased bilirubin level is the reason behind jaundice – the yellowish tint to the baby’s skin. Sometimes this level is higher than average. If not treated appropriately, bilirubin can cause severe damage to the brain leading to dyskinetic CP.

  • Severe cerebral circulatory disorders.

Unfortunately, the underpinning for this cause is the condition that is not easy to detect in the early stages. Fetal brain arteriovenous is an example of such diseases. In such cases, CP exists because of the spontaneous occurrence of intracerebral hemorrhage.

  • Brain injury.

A brain injury of an infant can lead to CP.

  • Neuroinfectious diseases.

Neuroinfectious diseases can cause intellectual and motor delay and even the loss of already acquired skills by affecting the nervous system and spinal cord.


Medical problems and complications throughout the whole process, from pregnancy to childbirth, can increase the risk factor of CP. Though a risk factor is not proof that a child will inevitably suffer from CP, it makes the occurrence more probable. Therefore, the child needs extra attention and special examinations of specialists. The risk factors include:

  • Blood type incompatibility.

When the fetus and mother have not only different but incompatible blood types, it needs attention. It can cause jaundice leading to CP.

  • Multiple births.

Studies have proven that the risks of CP in twin pregnancies are 12 times greater than the single ones, and it multiplies several times if one of the twins dies.

  • Maternal disorders.

Epilepsy, thyroid, obesity, cardiac issues, hypertension, blood clotting, anemia, and diabetes are the maternal diseases that increase the risk of CP.

  • Bad habits during pregnancy.

Smoking, drinking alcohol, or drugs increase the risk of CP. These substances are already toxic, and they can be very unsafe for mothers and their babies.

  • Labor complications.

Complications during birth can lead to numerous risks to the health of the baby and mother, including exposing the baby to the risk of CP.

  • Low or high birth weight.

The average newborn birth weight should not be less than 5.5 pounds and over 8.5 pounds. Infants heavier or lighter than the average weight have a higher risk of CP.

  • Birth injuries.

Sometimes the minor inconvenience such as the misuse of vacuum extractors or obstetrical forceps can lead to injuries during childbirth which can be a risk factor to CP.

  • Improper vaccination.

Improper vaccination can make a child prone to many infectious diseases leading to the inflammation of the brain; hence, a risk factor of CP.

  • Absence of child injury prevention.

Even a tiny mistake can cause a damaging head injury. Infants are at a higher risk of CP, so they need to be taken care of with extra precautions and preventions.


Even the tiniest compilations can lead to brain damage, eventually causing CP. Causes and risks do not necessarily work separately, but their combination can also be deadly. The best way to tackle this situation is to immediately contact the physician after noticing the slightest symptoms and take preventable measures to ensure the child is not at risk of developing cerebral palsy.

Heather Breese
Heather Breese is a qualified writer who fell in love with creativity and became a specialist creator and writer, focused on readers and market need.

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