Facts aboutBaby Palsy

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More than 500,000 Americans have cerebral palsy, a type of brain damage that impairs movement and can cause mental retardation. A common cause of a childhood disability is cerebral palsy. Every year two to four of every 1,000 live births in the U.S. are affected.

The origins of cerebral palsy are rooted in congenital factors, injuries at birth or injury or illness within the first two to three years of life. Children with cerebral palsy may exhibit stiffness and rigidity in movement, abnormal muscle tone, cognitive impairment, problems with speech and seizures.

Typically, babies who are born with CP have a teen mother or a mother older than 35. Problems during pregnancy that can increase the risk for baby palsy include:

  • Infections during pregnancy: Rubella (German measles), cytomegalovirus (a herpes-type virus), and toxoplasmosis (an infection caused by a parasite that can be carried in cat feces or inadequately cooked meat) all have the potential of causing fetal brain damage.
  • Uterine or birth canal infections: These conditions may cause inflammation of the placenta, which can damage the brain of the fetus and lead to CP.
  • Hormones: Use of estrogen or thyroid hormones during pregnancy have been linked to cerebral palsy.
  • Drugs and alcohol: Illegal drugs, alcohol and some prescription medications, such as methotrexate, are suspected in fetal brain damage leading to CP.
  • Other factors: Bleeding in the uterus in the third trimester, large amounts of protein in the urine and high blood sugar levels also may contribute to babies with palsy.

During birth, if there was complications, cerebral palsy can result. Complications like these start the damage in the brain of the infant and give rise to CP and its symptom’s host. Premature babies are at the highest risk for problems at time of birth. Problems include:

  • Difficult labor: The trauma of a prolonged birth and oxygen deprivation for the fetus increases the risk. The early separation of the placenta from the uterine wall also can deprive the fetus of oxygen.
  • Breech birth: When the baby emerges from the birth canal feet, knees or buttocks first, the potential for brain damage increases.
  • Maternal infections: If the mother has a strep infection, for example, and this reaches the babys brain during birth, brain damage and cerebral palsy are potential consequences.

Brain damage after birth can also cause cerebral palsy. Severe illness or injury leading to oxygen deprivation to the brain can cause CP in babies.

Evidence of cerebral palsy may not emerge immediately after birth. Typically, parents and those caring for the child will notice the first signs of difficulties when that child does not meet the developmental milestones such as rolling over and crawling.

Most people with CP have spastic cerebral palsy, which can affect either the whole body or specific regions and cause muscle stiffness and an imbalanced posture. Of all the individuals with baby palsy, close to 75% of them have some degree of mental damage. The majority of this group has mental retardation, mild or severe. The rest can function regularly but has some form of learning disability.

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