Congenital cerebral palsy is frequently caused by infections or other heath issues in the mother. Some of these problems cannot be entirely prevented, but others can be either prevented or treated so that they will not be a health risk for the unborn baby.
Maternal infections which can cause Cerebral Palsy
Prenatal care is vital for the health of both the woman and her unborn child. When the motherdevelops an infection her unborn baby can suffer adverse affects, including permanent brain damage. The following diseases can cause birth defects and have been especially associated with cerebral palsy:
• Rubella—also called “German measles” or “three-day measles,” can cause a variety of birth defects. Fortunately, it can be prevented with a vaccine. If you are considering becoming pregnant, be vaccinated for rubella before you try to conceive.
• Chickenpox (varicella) is a common childhood disease which can also be contracted by adults. Chickenpox can lead to the development of painful shingles years after it was contracted. Chickenpox can cause birth defects, but it can be prevented with a vaccine and women considering becoming pregnant should be vaccinated against the disease before they attempt to conceive.
• Cytomegalovirus is a common virus, as yet little known by the general public. Cytomegalovirus causes flu-like symptoms and can easily be mistaken for the common flu. It is estimated that before they reach age forty, the majority (80%) of people in the United States have contracted this virus. Symptoms of cytomegalovirus can come and go throughout one’s life. Cytomegalovirus can cause birth defects if the mother has her first episode of it while pregnant.
• Toxoplasmosis is parasite which can harm the unborn babies of women who contract the condition while pregnant. This parasite is found in the feces of infected cats and in the soil. If you are pregnant it is best to have someone else empty the cat litter box. If you must do the task yourself, wear gloves and wash your hands well afterwards; you should also protect yourself from parasites in the soil by wearing gloves when doing any form of gardening and washing your hands afterwards.
• Inflammatory pelvic disease is an infection of the female reproductive organs. It can be caused by the sexually transmitted diseases chlamydia, and gonorrhea. It can also be caused by the bacteria which cause vaginosis. This infection is especially prone to cause a stroke in the unborn baby; fetal strokes are one cause of the brain damage which leads to cerebral palsy. Inflammatory pelvic disease can be treated with antibiotics, but ideally treatment should be done before you are pregnant. It is good idea to have a thorough check-up to rule out possible health problems before you try to conceive.
• Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease which can also cause birth defects if the mother already has the disease or contracts it while pregnant.
• Herpes is a group of common sexually transmitted viruses which can cause birth defects. There are two types of herpes virus which cause genital herpes. There are also other types of virus known as herpes, such as the herpes B virus which causes chickenpox and shingles. According the a 2006 British study, babies exposed to the herpes B virus while in the womb or shortly after birth have a greater risk of developing cerebral palsy.
Maternal health conditions which can contribute to Cerebral Palsy
Health conditions which the mother chronically has may also affect her unborn child. Women with pregestational diabetes (diabetes which was present before the pregnancy) have greater chance of having a baby with birth defects. Maternal diabetes can also cause macrosomia—meaning the baby is too large at birth; overweight babies and underweight babies are more prone to health problems including cerebral palsy than are average weight newborns. If you have diabetes and are considering pregnancy, make sure that your blood sugar is well-controlled before you try to conceive. Talk with your doctor about your plans to conceive; he or she can help plan a routine to take the best care of your diabetes, for both yourself and your hoped-for-child.
Sometimes women who have not previously had diabetes develop a form of diabetes during pregnancy. This is called gestational diabetes and it is a temporary condition; however, it still poses a health risk for both the mother and child. Gestational diabetes puts the fetus at greater risk of cerebral palsy. If you are pregnant, the risk of gestational diabetes is another reason to have regular prenatal check-ups; gestational diabetes can and should be treated.
Women with thyroid problems are also slightly more likely to have a baby with birth defects. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located below the Adam’s apple; the thyroid gland is vital to bodily functions and helps to control metabolism Checking with your doctor to make sure that your thyroid status is under proper control before you conceive is an excellent idea. If you have had trouble balancing your thyroid status, you may want to check with an endocrinologist (gland specialist).
In addition, women with mental retardation are believed to be more prone to have a child with cerebral palsy or some other birth defect, although the reasons for this are not clear.
- “Cerebral Palsy: Hope Through Research” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Retrieved March 27, 2009 from the World Wide Web:
“Cerebral Palsy” March of Dimes. Retrieved March 28, 2009 from the World Wide Web:https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/cerebral-palsy.aspx
“Cerebral Palsy” MayoClinic.com Retrieved March 27, 2009 from the World Wide Web:http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cerebral-palsy?DS00302
“Fetuses, Infants Exposed To Herpes B During, After Pregnancy At Increased Risk For Cerebral Palsy, Study Says” January 10, 2006. Medical News Today. Retrieved April 20, 2009 from the World Wide Web: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/35931.php
“Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: Women’s Health Issues”. Merck Health Manual: Home Edition. Retrieved April 20, 2009 from the World Wide Web:https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/women-s-health-issues/breast-disorders/overview-of-breast-disorders
“Preconception Risk Reduction: Diabetes in Pregnancy” March of Dimes. Retrieved April 20, 2009 from the World Wide Web:https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/gestational-diabetes.aspx
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