Is Cerebral Palsy Contagious?

Causes of Cerebral Palsy, Cerebral Palsy Information

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Cerebral palsy is one of the most commonly diagnosed motor disabilities in children, with around 10,000 babies and infants being diagnosed every year. There is currently no cure for cerebral palsy, but there are treatments and therapies that can help with some of the symptoms and enable many people with the condition to enjoy a full and active life.

What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy describes a range of conditions that affect a person’s movement and coordination. For some people, the symptoms are relatively mild and are manageable with a few adaptations. For others, the symptoms can be much more severe and require a lot of care. While there is no cure for cerebral palsy, there are treatments that may help those with the condition to manage their symptoms and live as independently as possible.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal development or damage to the areas of the brain that are responsible for maintaining balance and controlling movement. This usually occurs during pregnancy but can also happen during delivery or shortly after birth. Some of the most common risk factors include:

  • Exposure to infections such as rubella, cytomegalovirus, or toxoplasmosis during pregnancy
  • Exposure to methylmercury during pregnancy
  • Premature birth
  • A difficult delivery, particularly if the baby has been subject to a lack of oxygen
  • Head trauma during pregnancy or in early life
  • Multiple births
  • Low birth weight

However, in many cases, the exact cause is unknown.

How Is Cerebral Palsy Diagnosed?

Cerebral palsy is usually diagnosed in childhood when developing children experience delays in meeting expected physical milestones. It can be difficult to tell whether a baby has cerebral palsy at birth, and sometimes the symptoms do not become clear until a child is 2 or 3 years old. The symptoms that are typically noticed first in children with cerebral palsy include:

  • Developmental delays, such as being unable to sit or walk by an appropriate age without help
  • Weakness in the arms or legs
  • Unusually weak muscle tone (known as hypotonia)
  • Walking on tiptoes
  • Random, uncontrollable movements
  • Clumsy or jerky movements
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tremors and shaking in their hands

These symptoms can affect different areas of the body. In some cases, these symptoms are only present on one side of the body. Sometimes they affect just the lower limbs. Other times, these symptoms can affect the whole body.

Is Cerebral Palsy Contagious?

Because cerebral palsy is caused by damage or developmental problems in the brain, it is not considered a contagious condition. This type of brain damage is not spread through human contact and is not infectious. Some cases of cerebral palsy can be attributed to the mother’s exposure to communicable diseases during pregnancy, so expectant mothers are often tested for immunity or vaccinated during pregnancy. Expectant mothers are often advised to be extra vigilant for signs of infection when they are pregnant, as bacterial and viral infections can cause developmental problems in babies who are exposed to them in the womb.

Can Cerebral Palsy Be Prevented?

There are some things that parents can do to reduce the chances of their children developing cerebral palsy after birth, such as getting them vaccinated for common infections that affect infants and reducing the risk of head injuries. However, there is no way to eliminate all risk factors. In some cases, cerebral palsy can be attributed to medical malpractice or negligence. These cases often require thorough investigation to prevent further mistakes being made, and the families of those involved may be able to get compensation to help them meet the additional costs of caring for someone with cerebral palsy.

Can You Treat Cerebral Palsy?

Once done, the damage that causes cerebral palsy is typically irreversible. However, cerebral palsy is also non-progressive, so it will not get worse throughout a person’s lifetime. There are several options to help increase independence and improve a person’s quality of life with medication, therapy, surgery and assistive technology. Treatments for cerebral palsy vary depending on the severity of the symptoms and how they affect the individual.

If you or someone in your family has been affected by cerebral palsy, it’s possible that doctor or medical provider negligence could be the cause. At Janet, Janet & Suggs, we have helped thousands of families recover the compensation they are entitled to. If you think it’s possible that medical malpractice caused your child or loved one’s cerebral palsy, contact us today.



Claire Surles, RN
Reviewed by:
Claire Surles, RN
Registered Nurse

Claire comes to JJS after a 10-year career as a labor and delivery nurse. She dedicated her hospital efforts to advocating for families, providing the safest birthing environment possible as Newborn Admission Nurse at UMMC St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland. Her passion for helping those who experienced losses at any stage of gestation led to her appointment as Coordinator of the hospital’s ROOTS perinatal loss program. READ FULL BIO

Was Your Child's CP Preventable?