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Unfortunately, over the years there has not been a decline in the cases of cerebral palsy in children. Every year about 8,000 babies and infants are diagnosed with the condition. In addition, another 1,200 - 1,500 preschool age children are recognized each year to have cerebral palsy. The instance of cerebral palsy in children is rather significant, as one child in every 400 is affected. This is largely the result of the increased survival rate of premature babies due to medical advancements. However, there are several ways to prevent cerebral palsy in children and steps that can be taken from conception all the way through childbirth.
A good physician, the proper prenatal and neonatal procedures, and acknowledging the risk factors will help lower the statistics of cerebral palsy in children. A risk factor is a variable, not a cause of cerebral palsy, which, when present, increases the chance of cerebral palsy. The presence of a risk factor can be a caution for parents and physicians to be even more observant during the development of an infant when looking for cerebral palsy in children.
During the birthing process, asphyxia, or lack of oxygen, is one risk factor that can cause cerebral palsy in children. When brain cells are not getting enough oxygen due to poor circulation, they may die. About 10% of newborns known to have suffered asphyxia during birth develop cerebral palsy. A viral or bacterial infection contracted by the mother can also damage the fetal brain. Rubella, otherwise known as the German measles, toxoplasmosis (often contracted through undercooked meat), cytomegalovirus (a herpes virus), and HIV are known to cause brain-damaging infections cerebral palsy in children.
Trauma to the infant’s head due to an automobile accident, physical abuse or other such trauma to a pregnant mother or the infant can cause cerebral palsy in children as well. The diet of a pregnant mother is also the diet of the fetus and newborn. Maternal drug and alcohol use and malnutrition during pregnancy and during breastfeeding can be factors related to cerebral palsy in children.
Although usually a problem after the first-born child, Rh blood type compatibility between mother and fetus is also a cause of cerebral palsy in children. Once incompatibility is diagnosed, however, treatment procedures can prevent the mother’s immune system from attacking the child’s blood cells. Rh compatibility can also cause jaundice, a cause of cerebral palsy in children. If not caught through Rh testing, jaundice can be treated with phytotherapy, special lights that assist the infant in the breakdown of bilirubin.
Out of all diagnoses, 70% of cases of cerebral palsy in children are congenital, or present at birth. However, an additional 20% are diagnosed with congenital cerebral palsy due to a brain injury during child delivery. The additional 10% suffer from acquired cerebral palsy, which occurs in the first few months or years of life, and is usually preventable with proper delivery and childcare techniques. The increased survival rates in premature babies, due to medical advancements, have given a steady rise to the diagnosis of cerebral palsy in children. In turn, more information about the prevention of cerebral palsy in children should be considered before child conception.