Infection and fever in a fetus, newborn, or pregnant mother increases the likelihood that a child will develop cerebral palsy and other health risks. Newborns who were exposed to maternal infection are more likely to have Apgar scores below 6 compared to newborns not exposed to infection. Infections also raise the probability of premature labor. Infections occurring later in pregnancy are of special concern.
Certain infectious diseases are known to heighten the likelihood of cerebral palsy. These can include:
- rubella - German measles
- toxoplasmosis – infection caused by parasite
- herpes – sexually transmitted disease
- chorioamnionitis – inflammation of fetal membranes due to bacterial infection
One area in the study of infections in pregnant women and newborns focused on the role of inflammation. Infections are caused by a variety of sources and can result from events such as injury or bacterial invasion. The body’s natural response is to fight the infection and it sometimes employs inflammation to help prevent the injury or infection from spreading. However, inflammation may have negative side effects; chronic and excessive inflammation can lead to cellular damage.
To regulate inflammation, the body produces cytokines. It is thought that increased levels of cytokines may impede some of the body’s important regulatory functions. Specific to cerebral palsy, increased cytokines may make the body more vulnerable to the effects of oxygen deprivation.
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The Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis Guide
Cerebral Palsy Risk Factors
There are ten common risk factors. To learn more about them, click one of the following:
- The MyChild™ Cerebral Palsy Risk Factor Checklist
- Asphyxia (Oxygen Deprivation)
- Complications of Birth
- Premature Birth
- Traumatic Brain Damage
- Multiple Births and Infertility Treatment
- Blood Type Incompatibility or Jaundice
- Parental Health and Habits
- Placenta Complications
- Intrauterine Growth Restriction
The presence of one or more risk factors does not ensure a child will develop cerebral palsy; it means chances are higher than if that risk factor was not present. Likewise, the absence of risk factors does not ensure that a child will not develop cerebral palsy. Risk factors merely identify possible cause for concern. Avoiding risk factors will help prevent a child from developing cerebral palsy; any exposure to risk factors prior to conception and during pregnancy should be discussed with a doctor in order to effectively treat and manage risk. This list is not meant to be all-inclusive; other risk factors may contribute to the development of cerebral palsy, as well.