What Causes Cerebral Palsy During Pregnancy, Labor and Delivery Or In The Newborn Period Right After Birth?

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is caused by damage to the portions of a baby's developing brain that control the body's motor skills, muscle coordination, and movements. Some of the possible causes of brain damage that may lead to the development of Cerebral Palsy include:

  • Infections during pregnancy- Certain infections in the mother, including rubella (German measles), cytomegalovirus, and toxoplasmosis can cause brain damage and result in cerebral palsy.
  • Any abnormal alteration in the baby's brain development that can be caused by environmental factors or prescription medications
  • Trauma to the baby's head during delivery due to forcep use, vacuum suction or a small maternal pelvic outlet
  • Breech delivery where the baby's feet or buttocks are delivered first
  • Erb's Palsy or shoulder dystocia that causes a difficult delivery
  • Severe proteinuria or the presence of excess proteins in the urine usually seen with pre-eclampsia or eclampsia during pregnancy
  • Infections involving the placental membranes or amniotic sac (chorioamnionitis). An untreated Group B Strep (GBS) bacteria infection during pregnancy can cause significant brain damage in a newborn
  • Premature birth or preterm delivery. Premature babies who weigh less than 3 1/3 pounds are up to 30 times more likely to develop cerebral palsy than full-term babies
  • Intraventricular hemorrhage or bleeding into the ventricles of the brain which can lead to periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), or damage of the brain’s white matter.
  • Asphyxia or a lack of oxygen reaching the baby during labor and delivery
  • Prolonged or stressful delivery
  • Placental abruption-When the placenta pulls or tears away from the wall of the uterus before delivery. Placental abruptions can be small and concealed or very large with significant blood loss. If there is a lack of blood flow or oxygen to the baby could lead to Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE) and CP
  • Umbilical Cord Prolapse or cutting off the blood supply and oxygen to the baby
  • Rh Incompatibility where the mother's body produces immune cells called antibodies that destroy the baby's blood cells. This could lead to high bilirubin levels or jaundice in a newborn.
  • Severe jaundice, high bilirubin levels, or kernicterus. Without treatment, severe jaundice can pose a risk of permanent brain damage resulting in athetoid cerebral palsy
  • Acquired cerebral palsy- About 10 percent of children with cerebral palsy acquire it after birth due to injury to the brain that occurs during the first two years of life. The most common causes of brain injuries are brain infections (meningitis), drowning, lead poisoning, shaken baby syndrome, and traumatic head injuries.