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Cerebral Palsy Risks in Pregnancy

There are several factors that can determine cerebral palsy risks in pregnancy. First off, a healthy pregnancy can be achieved through regular prenatal care, good nutrition, and elimination of smoking, alcohol consumption, and drug abuse. This should be the goal of every pregnant woman and her physician in preventing cerebral palsy risks in pregnancy.

Certain risk factors for cerebral palsy can be watched for before and during pregnancy to prevent cerebral palsy risks in pregnancy. A risk factor is not a cause but a variable which, when present, increases the chance of a birth defect -- in this case, cerebral palsy. The presence of a risk factor does not mean cerebral palsy will occur nor does the absence of a risk factor mean that cerebral palsy will not occur. If a risk factor is present, it serves to alert the parents and physicians to be even more observant to cerebral palsy risks in pregnancy, as well as the infant's development.

One risk factor, asphyxia, or lack of oxygen, is where brain cells not getting enough oxygen due to poor circulation may die. Asphyxia is one of the more common of cerebral palsy risks in pregnancy. Asphyxia during birth is also possible, and 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 infections correlated with cerebral palsy. Immunization against measles for all women who have not had measles and are susceptible to becoming pregnant is an essential preventive measure.

Physical trauma to a pregnant mother or the infant can cause brain damage as well as increasing the cerebral palsy risks in pregnancy. Blows to the infant’s head due to an automobile accident, physical abuse or other such trauma can result in cerebral palsy. Also, maternal malnutrition and drug and alcohol use during pregnancy can be factors related to cerebral palsy risk in pregnancy.

Rh blood type compatibility between mother and fetus is also one of the cerebral palsy risks in pregnancy, with the chance becoming greater after the initial pregnancy. Pregnant women are tested routinely for the Rh factor and, if Rh negative, they can be immunized within 72 hours after the birth (or after the pregnancy terminates) and thereby prevent adverse consequences of blood incompatibility in a subsequent pregnancy. If the woman has not been immunized, the consequences of blood incompatibility in the newborn can be prevented by exchange transfusion in the baby. Once incompatibility is diagnosed treatment procedures can prevent the mother’s immune system from attacking the child’s blood cells. Jaundice that does occur can be treated with phytotherapy (special lights) that assist the infant in the breakdown of bilirubin.

Other preventive programs are directed towards the prevention of prematurity; reducing exposure of pregnant women to virus and other infections; recognition and treatment of bacterial infection of the maternal reproductive and urinary tracts; avoiding unnecessary exposure to X-rays, drugs and medications; and the control of diabetes, anemia and nutritional deficiencies.

Reducing the number of cerebral palsy risks in pregnancy is of great importance because there is no cure for cerebral palsy. The most important steps in lowering cerebral palsy risks in pregnancy are maintaining optimal wellbeing prior to conception, adequate prenatal care, and protecting infants from accidents or injury.

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