Alcohol and Drug Use During Pregnancy

Birth Injury, Causes of Cerebral Palsy, Cerebral Palsy Information, Prenatal Care and Childbirth

Pregnant woman pouring a drink, danger symbol over baby, with liquor and drugs in the foreground

Cerebral palsy is the result of abnormal brain development or damage to the brain of a fetus or young baby. There are a number of factors that can lead to the development of cerebral palsy, with many of them related to prolonged labor, high-risk mothers, and medical negligence. In some cases, it is impossible to determine what causes a baby to develop cerebral palsy, but it is important to take a look at all aspects of a pregnancy in an attempt to find out what happened.

The use of alcohol and drugs can put a pregnant woman in a high-risk category, but there are no studies that directly link alcohol or drug use to cerebral palsy.

Can Drinking Alcohol During Pregnancy Cause Cerebral Palsy?

There is no direct correlation between drinking during pregnancy and cerebral palsy, but there are many reasons not to drink while pregnant. Drinking alcohol while pregnant can cause fetal alcohol syndrome. This is a clinical diagnosis that commonly includes neurological impairments and motor impairments that are similar to cerebral palsy. Fetal alcohol syndrome often results in low birth weight, and low birth weight is one of the risk factors for cerebral palsy.

Drinking alcohol could be a risk factor for a child to be born with cerebral palsy, but it doesn’t directly cause it. Cerebral palsy is the result of a brain injury during pregnancy or during birth.

Can Drug Use Cause Cerebral Palsy?

Most drugs, if used while pregnant, will affect fetal brain development, but using drugs during pregnancy will not directly cause cerebral palsy. Even though drug use may not cause a baby to develop cerebral palsy, there are many reasons to not use drugs when pregnant.

Some drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine can decrease the blood flow and the heart function of both the mother and the developing fetus. These conditions put the mother in a high-risk category while pregnant.
Drug use can also increase the chance that the mother or baby could have a medical crisis during labor and delivery.

Can Smoking During Pregnancy Cause Cerebral Palsy?

Smoking during pregnancy can cause an infant to have low birth weight, brain damage, and breathing problems. All of these factors put an infant or fetus in jeopardy of developing a number of birth defects and other cognitive issues, but there is no direct link between smoking during pregnancy and the development of cerebral palsy.

Can Smoking Weed While Pregnant Cause Cerebral Palsy?

Smoking weed while pregnant can significantly increase the chance of premature birth. A preterm baby is at high risk for cerebral palsy. If a woman smokes marijuana when she is pregnant, it exposes the developing fetus to the drug because it passes to the baby’s bloodstream inside the placenta.

Common Risk Factors of Cerebral Palsy

Many of the most common risk factors for the development of cerebral palsy are also the result of using alcohol, drugs, and smoking while pregnant. While it is not always easy or possible to determine the cause of cerebral palsy, some events or problems during pregnancy or during birth can increase the risk of congenital cerebral palsy. These include:

  • Low birth weight. Infants with low birth weight and those that are born preterm have a higher risk of cerebral palsy than full-term or early-term babies. Babies who have a higher birth weight have a lower risk of cerebral palsy.
  • Infections during pregnancy. If the mother develops an infection such as rubella, herpes, or toxoplasmosis during pregnancy, it can lead to brain damage in their fetus and result in cerebral palsy.
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals. If a mother is exposed to toxic chemicals such as mercury in some seafood while pregnant, their baby has a higher risk of developing cerebral palsy.
  • Jaundice. Jaundice is a condition that causes an infant’s skin, mouth, and eyes to turn a yellow color. It is often a sign that their liver is not working correctly and, in most cases, is not serious. In some severe cases, however, it can cause damage to the brain that results in cerebral palsy.

Some new studies also now show that certain genes can contribute to an increased risk of developing cerebral palsy. While it is not hereditary, some hereditary factors can predispose a baby to cerebral palsy.

Though significant advancements have been made in treating cerebral palsy, it’s important to know the risk factors when you’re pregnant and how you can mitigate them. Even if you’ve done your best to reduce your risks, it is still possible for your child to develop cerebral palsy through medical negligence. If that was the case with your pregnancy or labor, you may be eligible for compensation.

The experienced legal/medical team of Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC will research your case and work hard to get you any compensation you may be entitled to. Contact us with any questions about moving forward with the process.

Was Your Child's CP Preventable?