Can Cerebral Palsy be Prevented?
Cerebral palsy (CP) is a debilitating neurological disorder which affects one child out of every 323 born in this country. Although all possible causes of this disorder are not yet understood, steps can be taken to lessen the associated risk factors. Parents and parents-to-be play the most important roles in CP prevention, even before conception. By working with one or more professionals who understand the details surrounding CP, you'll be providing your child the best chance for a healthy future. a
What Causes CP?
CP is ultimately the result of brain damage that has occurred before, during, or shortly after the birth process. The damage itself may have been caused either by an injury or abnormal development in the young child's brain. In the past, it was believed that the majority of CP cases were a result of brain injuries that occurred during the birthing process, but recent evidence shows that only about 10 percent of CP cases begin during delivery. Some children experience a traumatic brain injury shortly after birth that leads to CP, but the majority of cases are now known to have their beginnings in the womb. As a result, parents concerned with CP should use extra care during the prenatal period in order to minimize the chances of their child developing CP.
Reduce the Risk Factors Associated With CP Before and During Pregnancy
Numerous risk factors have been shown to increase the likelihood of giving birth to a child with CP. The following steps will help ensure that mothers-to-be are physically healthy both before and during pregnancy in order to provide their developing babies everything that is needed throughout the entire gestational period:
- Eating plenty of nutritious foods. In order to properly develop, babies need adequate nutrition from the mother. This nutrition comes from quality foods like colorful vegetables and fruits, easy to assimilate sources of protein and healthy fats like coconut and olive oils. Organic foods have been proven to contain a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals so critical during those early stages of growth in addition to being free from dangerous chemicals that may interfere with normal brain development.
- Steering clear of cigarette smoke. If you are a smoker who would like to have a child, drop the habit before conception. Second hand smoke has also been proven to have a negative impact during pregnancy; mothers-to-be who live with a smoker should insist smoking occur only outdoors or better yet, encourage family members to quit altogether.
- Avoiding alcohol and other drug use. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy interferes with the development of a rapidly growing fetus. Stay away from alcohol and any other drug use, including prescription and over the counter drugs, whenever possible.
Protect Your Child After Birth
Some cases of CP are the result of a brain injury that occurs shortly after birth. As a parent, you are in the best position to protect your child:
- Ensure that your child has a car seat that is installed and adjusted properly to reduce the risk of an injury resulting from a car accident.
- Carefully screen all caregivers before leaving your child in their care. Shaken baby syndrome can cause irreversible brain damage resulting in CP.
- Keep your child away from people you suspect are suffering from a contagious illness. Babies who develop meningitis and other infections may experience a reduced amount of blood flow to their brains, leading to the development of CP.
- Learn how to avoid exposure to lead which impacts the developing brain. Pay attention for signs of jaundice and seek prompt treatment if required.
Do Your Part in the Prevention of CP
Not all cases of CP are preventable, but much can be done to reduce the associated risk factors. Raising a child is perhaps one of the greatest gifts in life; through careful planning and preparation, parents can rest easy knowing they have done everything in their power to ensure the best possible outcome for their child.