What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy does not have a single cause. There are many reasons why someone might have cerebral palsy. An unborn child might have suffered an injury to the brain or had abnormal development of the brain tissue. These are called “prenatal” causes, meaning they happened before birth. These causes are responsible for about 70% of the cases of cerebral palsy. Another 20% of cerebral palsy cases are caused by a brain injury that takes place during the birthing process including low oxygen during delivery or complications of prematurity.
In the United States, about 10% of children who have cerebral palsy developed it after they were born. This is called “acquired cerebral palsy.” The percentage of CP that is acquired is higher in under-developed countries. Acquired cerebral palsy happens when there is brain damage during the first year of life. This damage can be caused by brain infections, like bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis. It can also be caused by a head injury — such as that from a motor vehicle accident, a fall, or child abuse.
Sometimes the actual cause of a particular child’s cerebral palsy cannot be determined.
Although there may have been a brain injury or a brain development problem during gestation, the problems with motor control and posture may not be noticed until a baby’s motor skills develop to the extent to identify the condition. Thus, many children with CP are not diagnosed in the newborn period. However, the majority can be diagnosed in the first 2 years of life.
Is it normal to want to know the cause of my child’s cerebral palsy?
Talk to other parents in the My Child Without Limits support community about how they accepted that their child has special needs.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
American Pregnancy Association
Gillette Children’s Hospital