Cerebral Palsy



Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of chronic disorders that affect the ability to control movement. It appears in the first few years of life. Generally, the nerve damage does not worsen over time, but the muscle, joint, and skeletal effects can get worse without treatment.


CP occurs due to damage to areas of the brain that direct movement. This damage interferes with the brain's ability to control movement and posture. Other areas of the brain controlling thinking, speech, vision, or hearing may also be involved. CP may develop before, during, or after birth.Causes include:
  • Stroke or bleeding occurs in the baby's brain during development or after birth
  • Child sustains a head injury or brain infection
  • There are abnormalities of the umbilical cord or placenta, or the placenta separates too early from the wall of the uterus
  • Child does not get enough oxygen during or after birth
  • Child has meningitis, encephalitis, seizures, or head injury
  • Child has genetic/metabolic abnormalities
  • Brain tissue that may not develop correctly during pregnancy—growing fetus may experience a lack of oxygen or nutrients
  • Mother has rubella, toxoplasmosis, or cytomegalovirus while pregnant
  • Mother and child's blood types are not compatible causing severe jaundice

Risk Factors

Factors that increase the risk of CP include:
  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Complicated or premature delivery
  • Multiple births, such as twins or triplets
  • Breech birth
  • In vitro fertilization (IVF)—in part due to multiple births associated with IVF
  • Infection or blood clotting problems during pregnancy
  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy
  • Family history of CP in parent or sibling
  • Seizures or intellectual disability in the expectant mother
  • Cord prolapse
  • Low Apgar score—a rating of the child's condition just after birth
  • Vaginal or urinary tract infection during pregnancy
  • High birth weight
  • Type 1 diabetes in the expectant mother
  • Small head
  • Seizures

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Current Research From Top Journals

June 2015

A meta-analysis found that mothers participating in a prenatal exercise group were less likely to have a large newborn, less likely to need a cesarean section, and no more likely to have a low birthweight baby than those who did not exercise. The study supports proper prenatal care advice which advocates for mothers to exercise during pregnancy if allowed by the physician.

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