Brain damage that affects the fetus during pregnancy or birth can result in cerebral palsy. While any infant can develop this condition because of a birth injury, some children have a higher risk for cerebral palsy than others.
Explore the factors that increase an infant’s risk for cerebral palsy.
Infants born before 37 weeks gestation have a higher risk for cerebral palsy than full-term babies. The risk increases further for babies born before 32 weeks’ gestation. Cerebral palsy also disproportionately affects low birthweight babies, including those born weighing 5 lbs., 8 oz or less. The risk is even higher for babies born weighing less than 3 lbs., 5 oz.
Multiple-birth infants, including twins, triplets and higher-order multiples, have an increased cerebral palsy risk. If one of the fetuses dies before or at birth, the other babies have an even higher risk for cerebral palsy. Because assisted reproductive technology results in a higher prevalence of multiple births, use of ART is also a risk factor for cerebral palsy.
Maternal health problems
Some health issues for the mother can result in a higher cerebral palsy risk. Examples include seizures, intellectual disabilities, thyroid issues, bacterial infections, rubella, chickenpox and fever. Failure to diagnose and treat these issues may constitute medical malpractice if the mother or baby suffers a resulting birth injury.
In addition to these risk factors, cerebral palsy is often associated with birth complications such as umbilical cord issues, ruptured uterus or detached placenta. Untreated jaundice in an infant can also develop into kernicterus, which can cause cerebral palsy.