According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, United States, on an average cerebral palsy is found in 3.3 children in every 1000 live births.
The term cerebral palsy is used to denote a group of non-progressive and non-contagious motor conditions, which cause physical disability in the child. This condition usually occurs during pregnancy, childbirth, and early childhood. Movement of different parts of the body are affected due to this condition. When the motor control centers of the brain are damaged, the child may be affected with cerebral palsy. The exact cause behind this condition is still unknown. There are some possible causes or risk factors which may cause cerebral palsy in children. But the major concern is whether this condition is preventable. The answer is no, cerebral palsy cannot be prevented, but one can at least lessen the risk of this condition by following some preventive measures.
Possible Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Though in many cases the cause behind cerebral palsy is unknown, there are some known causes which may either increase the risk or can contribute to the occurrence of this condition. Following are some of them.
- Certain infections during pregnancy like rubella (German measles), can cause brain damage further leading to cerebral palsy.
- Insufficient supply of oxygen to the fetus which may be caused due to improper functioning of placenta.
- Premature delivery may also lead to this condition, specially when the infant is less than 3 pounds.
- Lack of oxygen or asphyxia during labor or delivery.
- Incompatibility between the Rh factor between mother and her fetus.
- Severe jaundice if not taken care of in time, may pose high risk of permanent brain damage further resulting in cerebral palsy.
- Some children may acquire cerebral palsy after birth due to brain infections such as meningitis and due to some head injury.
Methods to Prevent Cerebral Palsy
There is no cure for cerebral palsy. The treatment options available can only decrease or minimize the disabilities and can improve the capabilities of the child. As the exact cause for this condition is still unknown, it cannot be prevented. But there are some risk factors that can be addressed and reduced in time. Following are some of the preventive measures which may not prevent cerebral palsy, but can reduce the chances of its occurrence-
Rubella virus, also known as German measles virus can cause birth defects, if expectant mothers are affected by it. If you are vaccinated against it, you will not acquire this virus again. However, it is important that the immunization happens at least 4 to 6 weeks before conceiving, so that it helps in preventing cerebral palsy. You can undergo a test to find out whether you need the vaccination or not.
The 'Rh' Factor
If the Rh factor of the mother and her fetus are not compatible then it might pose a risk of this condition. In most cases, this condition does not pose a big threat during the first pregnancy, but can be problematic during the subsequent pregnancies. To prevent any adverse situation, pregnant woman with Rh negative, should take appropriate care in the early stage of pregnancy.
Treat all Infections
Infections like cytomegalovirus (a usually mild viral infection) and toxoplasmosis (a usually mild parasitic infection) may cause brain damage which may further lead to cerebral palsy, hence measures should be taken to treat any such infections at the earliest. As far as possible, stay away from people who are infected, to protect the fetus from getting affected.
Jaundice in Newborn
Jaundice in newborn should be treated with utmost care. Care should be taken to avoid kernicterus so that bile pigments do not build up and pose a threat to the brain of the child. Newborns with jaundice are treated with photo therapy.
Routine Vaccination of Babies
Do not neglect even one routine vaccination given to the babies. Complete the course and give your child all the vaccinations on time. This will keep them healthy and their body will be ready to fight against any disease or infections.
Protect your Child from Accidents
While traveling with the child in the car, it is important that the baby is properly secured. Head injury can also be one of the causes of cerebral palsy, therefore, care should be taken about the same. The child should be placed in the child seat and strapped properly, while traveling. Provide your child bicycle helmet and get safety rails on beds.
Care should be taken to ensure that the child is not exposed to lead. Lead poisoning is one of the causes of brain damage in small children. Along with lead, the child should also be protected from exposure to other harmful chemicals as well.
Regular visit to your doctor will help in the early diagnosis of infections and other problems. Early diagnosis and treatment will reduce the risk of cerebral palsy.
Healthy Diet and Vitamins
Although it has been emphasized upon everywhere that one must follow a healthy diet, most of us tend to neglect this advice. However, expectant mothers must overtly be cautious about what they eat. Balanced diet with the right vitamin and mineral supplements are important during pregnancy to avoid cerebral palsy.
Discuss with your pediatrician if your child faces developmental problems like understanding, sitting, crawling, or walking. Take extra care of yourself when you are pregnant. Research has proved that children born to non-smoking mothers are healthier and have less chances of cerebral palsy. Along with smoking, alcohol and drugs also have to be kept off the radar. Though cerebral palsy cannot be cured or prevented, early detection of the condition and preventive measure to reduce the risk, might save your child from cerebral palsy.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.