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Know the risk factors for cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a disease that results when the brain does not develop properly. New research sheds some light on the possible reasons some children get the disease and others do not. Until recently, most experts thought CP developed during birth when oxygen to the baby gets restricted. Now, however, more doctors have discovered CP can occur before, during and after birth.

Most cases of CP get the classification of congenital. What risk factors do these congenital CP cases have in common?

The baby is born too early

Premature birth is a significant risk factor in children with CP. Cases of CP appear in children before the 37th week of pregnancy and rise substantially for those born before the 32nd week. The baby's birth weight is a factor as well. Those born early typically tend to weigh the least. Babies born weighing less than 3 pounds 5 ounces may have increased risks of CP. These babies continue to remain susceptible to diseases and viruses throughout much of their young lives and beyond.

The baby is one of multiples

If a child is a twin or triplet, their chances of getting CP increase. Multiple pregnancies place a strain on precious resources while in the uterus, sometimes resulting in one child dying before or during birth. Sharing a womb makes a child more susceptible to brain damage like that seen in CP.

The mother is sick during pregnancy

This heading is not meant to set off alarm bells. Yes, women can get sick during pregnancy and have healthy babies. However, some illnesses increase the chances a child is susceptible to CP. Infections and viruses such as chicken pox, bacterial infections of the placenta and uterus, and the German measles all raise the stakes when it comes to the baby developing CP.

Proper diagnosis of infections in the mother during pregnancy may help reduce the risk of CP. While the exact cause is not known, getting the proper prenatal care and intervention may make all the difference.

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