How to Prevent Cerebral Palsy During Pregnancy

Causes of Cerebral Palsy, Doctor Visits, Prenatal Care and Childbirth

female doctor using stethoscope on pregnant woman

There are three types of cerebral palsy: congenital, acquired, and genetic predisposition. Congenital cerebral palsy, a type of CP that occurs when the brain doesn’t develop as it should before or during birth, can sometimes be prevented during pregnancy. If you have concerns about cerebral palsy, how to prevent it is likely at the top of your list. While it isn’t always possible to avoid the condition entirely, there are many things that you can do to reduce your child’s risk while you’re pregnant.

Attend Regular Prenatal Care Appointments

Seeing your doctor regularly throughout your pregnancy is one of the best things that you can do to protect your child’s health. This is good for CP prevention because it will help you identify potential problems early and prevent as many complications as possible. Potential issues such as incompatible blood types in the mother and baby can be treated with medication when identified early.

Always be open and honest with your healthcare provider about any health concerns that you may have so you can identify the cause of these issues early. Your doctor is your best source of information regarding your health and that of your baby. Speaking with a qualified healthcare provider will help you understand how to prevent CP when possible.

Avoid Infections

Infections and fevers during pregnancy present a risk factor for CP. When your body is fighting off an infection, it produces more cytokines. These proteins circulate through the blood and brain of your baby in pregnancy, causing inflammation. This in turn can cause brain damage and lead to cerebral palsy. CP has been linked to:

  • Rubella
  • Chickenpox
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
  • Maternal pelvic infections
  • Bacterial infections

You can get vaccinated against many infections before pregnancy. If you’re planning to become pregnant, speak with your doctor beforehand about any vaccines you should get. You cannot get these as safely after you’re pregnant. Wash your hands often and be mindful of who you’re exposed to during your pregnancy to avoid potential infections.

Take Prenatal Vitamins

Taking prenatal vitamins will help support your baby’s development throughout pregnancy. Folic acid is particularly important. Regular doses of folic acid can help prevent premature birth. Prematurity is one of the leading causes of cerebral palsy, so it’s important to do all you can to carry your baby to term.

Know What to Avoid

There are many things that expectant mothers are encouraged to avoid. Exposure to these potential threats can increase the likelihood of many birth complications and may compromise the fetus’s health. If you’re pregnant, you should avoid:

  • Drinking
  • Smoking
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Any type of drug use including opioids, cocaine, and marijuana
  • Cat boxes and waste
  • Cleaning products containing teratogens
  • Eating fish which may contain mercury
  • Getting X-rays

While the risks associated with some of these activities may be small, you can keep your pregnancy as healthy as possible by avoiding them when you can. In many cases, these risk factors are primarily associated with issues like low birth weight. Babies who weigh less than 5 1/2 pounds at birth are at a higher risk for CP. This risk is even greater among children who are born weighing three pounds or less.

Stay Safe When Active

Any type of slip or fall has the potential to hurt your baby when pregnant. Be mindful of the fact that your balance will be off while you’re expecting. Wear non-slip shoes and avoid wet surfaces to decrease your chances of this type of injury.

While it’s important to stay active when you’re pregnant, you should also be mindful of the type of activity that you choose. Do not ride roller coasters or other turbulent theme park rides. Avoid anything that introduces the potential for tripping or sustaining any kind of impact. Walking is one of the best and safest activities that you can pursue while you’re expecting.

Choose a Knowledgeable Team of Healthcare Providers

Your OBGYN plays a big role in preventing potential cases of CP. It’s important to choose a healthcare team that you’re comfortable with and feel you can trust to make the best decisions for you and your baby. Speak openly with the doctor that you’re considering for your OBGYN and ask questions such as:

  • How is cerebral palsy prevention managed?
  • What is your philosophy on cesarean birth (C-section)?
  • What are your credentials?
  • What is the hospital and physician’s history with medical malpractice cases?

Cesarean birth increases the risk of CP, so you should choose a doctor that will work to avoid this type of delivery unless medically necessary. Your doctor should be knowledgeable on all risk factors for CP including infections, medication use, prolonged labor and labor difficulties. Choose an OBGYN that is dedicated to minimizing these risk factors as much as possible.

If your child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy after birth and you believe that medical malpractice is the cause, you may be eligible for compensation. Contact the Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC if you have legal questions about cerebral palsy.

Was Your Child's CP Preventable?