What are the risk factors for cerebral palsy?

Risk factors for cerebral palsy are factors that increase the likelihood that a child will develop cerebral palsy (CP). The presence of a risk factor does not mean that cerebral palsy is inevitable, but it does increase the chance of the types of brain damage that cause cerebral palsy.  The presence of risk factors should serve as an alert for health care providers and parents that a child’s development should be closely monitored.


 Risk Factors for Cerebral Palsy

Some risk factors are congenital, meaning that the cerebral palsy is related to brain damage that happens before or during birth. Congenital cerebral palsy accounts for roughly 85% to 90% of all CP cases. Acquired cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage that occurs more than 28 days after birth, and is generally associated with infection (e.g. meningitis, sepsis) or head trauma. Some of the most common risk factors include:

  • Low birth weight; small – Children who weigh less than 5½ pounds at birth have a greater chance of having cerebral palsy. The chance increases as the weight decreases. Also babies who are small for their gestational age are more at risk for CP.
  • Premature birth – Children born before the 37th week of pregnancy have a greater chance of having CP. The more premature the baby is, the greater the risk of cerebral palsy.
  • Multiple births – Twins, triplets, and other multiples have a higher risk of developing CP. If one or more of the babies die, there is an increased risk that the surviving baby/babies will have cerebral palsy.
  • Infections – Certain viruses such as toxoplasmosis, chickenpox, rubella, and herpes have been linked to cerebral palsy as well as some bacterial infections of the placenta, membranes, and pelvis.
  • Problems or complications during labor and delivery – Such as oxygen deprivation due to uterine rupture, placental problems, umbilical cord complications, or respiratory issues; misuse of forceps or vacuum extractors during birth; or not doing an emergency C-section when warranted.
  • Blood type incompatibility – Rh incompatibility may cause cerebral palsy.
  • Mothers exposed to toxic substances or with cognitive impairments, seizures, or thyroid problems – Increase risk of having a child with cerebral palsy.
  • Low Apgar score – A low Apgar score after 10-20 minutes is a sign of cerebral palsy or other problems.
  • Jaundice – When bilirubin builds up in a newborn’s bloodstream faster than his liver can break it down, jaundice occurs. When jaundice is not effectively treated it can result in a serious neurological condition called kernicterus, which kills brain cells and can cause deafness and cerebral palsy.
  • Seizures – An infant who has seizures faces a higher risk of being diagnosed later in childhood with cerebral palsy.

Some of the risk factors above are genetic and are not preventable. However, many are a result of a complication or mistake during labor and delivery. For example, a physician may not have appropriately treated a uterine rupture or may have failed to prescribe antibiotics during birth for an infection. Or perhaps the medical staff simply did not perform an emergency C-section quickly enough.


Legal Help for Children with Cerebral Palsy and Birth Injuries

If you are seeking the help of a cerebral palsy lawyer, it is very important to choose a lawyer and firm that focus solely on birth injury cases.  Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers is a national birth injury law firm that has been helping children for over three decades.

Partners Jesse Reiter and Rebecca Walsh are currently recognized as being two of the best medical malpractice lawyers in America by U.S. News and World Report.  The lawyers at ABC Law Centers have won numerous awards for their advocacy of children and are members of the Birth Trauma Litigation Group (BTLG) and the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ).

If your child was diagnosed with a birth injury, such as cerebral palsyErb’s palsy, a seizure disorder, or hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), we can help.  We have helped children throughout the country obtain compensation for lifelong treatment, therapy, and a secure future, and we give personal attention to each child and family we represent. Our firm has a list of multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success, and you pay nothing until we win your case.  Email or call Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers at 888-419-2229 for a free case evaluation.  We are available 24 / 7 to speak with you.

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Related Resources: Cerebral Palsy

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