Cerebral palsy has many potential causes that cannot always be exactly pinpointed. Experts usually talk in terms of risk factors. New research has discovered that maternal injuries present an additional factor that increases the risk of a child developing cerebral palsy. Women and their doctors can use this information to lower the risks of childhood disabilities.
Cerebral Palsy Causes
Ultimately, cerebral palsy results from damage to the developing brain, which is why it so often occurs in newborns. A toddler can also develop CP, but it is less likely. Developing fetuses and newborns are much more vulnerable to brain damage that can cause a disability.
A fetus or newborn can suffer brain damage in numerous ways. Experts can’t always determine an exact reason for it. Many things increase the risk, including birth complications, like low birth weight or prematurity, illness or drug use in the mother, and blood type incompatibility.
Maternal Injury as a Risk Factor for Cerebral Palsy
Injury in the pregnant mother is now on the list of potential risk factors for CP. Suffering an injury during pregnancy does not mean a child will necessarily be born with cerebral palsy, but researchers have found that it is another factor that increases the risk.
The research was conducted by a group at the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in Toronto and published in JAMA Pediatrics. They looked at a population study involving more than two million children between 2002 and 2018 and conducted eight-year median follow-ups.
The researchers found that unintentional injuries in the mother while pregnant increased the risk of a child having cerebral palsy by 33%. The risk increases with more severe injuries or multiple injuries. The risk also goes up when a woman gives birth shortly after suffering an injury.
The researchers adjusted for other contributing factors, like maternal age and socioeconomic status, previous births, and the quality and frequency of prenatal care. The types of injuries that most contributed to the increased risk of CP resulted from car accidents. This is probably because vehicle accidents are more likely to cause more severe injuries.
Protecting Mothers and Babies
The new information from the study is useful for helping to protect both mothers and babies. It indicates that women who are pregnant should take precautions against injury. Although this has always been the case, the most recent findings highlight another consequence of maternal injuries. It also highlights the need to provide extra care for pregnant women who have been injured.
The study findings also give medical professionals another risk factor to consider when screening babies for birth injuries, brain damage, or developmental disabilities. The new knowledge increases the already urgent need to provide early, regular screenings for all babies and particularly for those with risk factors.
Cerebral palsy and its many causes remain a mystery in many ways. Every new piece of information helps medical professionals provide better care for mothers and their babies.