Is Cerebral Palsy Progressive?

Cerebral Palsy Information

large orange sphere with question mark on it rolling past smaller blue cubes

Cerebral palsy is a concern for every parent, especially those who are about to deliver or have just experienced a traumatic delivery. Even though thinking about a cerebral palsy diagnosis can be scary, it allows you to prevent, identify, and develop a treatment plan that gives your child the relief and help that they need.

What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that permanently affects muscle coordination and body movement. This condition is the result of either abnormalities or damage that occurs to a developing brain’s outer layer, the cerebral cortex, interfering with the brain’s ability to maintain balance and posture and control movement.

Is Cerebral Palsy Progressive?

Though some symptoms of cerebral palsy can become more or less evident over time, the actual disorder doesn’t evolve or worsen with age. However, if not treated appropriately, muscle rigidity or shortening can become worse.

Types of Cerebral Palsy

Depending on the type of movement disorder that an individual has, their cerebral palsy is classified as:

Spastic Cerebral Palsy

Spastic CP is the most common type of cerebral palsy, and it is marked by stiff muscles that cause developed muscle tone. This form of CP can be sub-classified based on the body parts it affects. For example:

  • Spastic diplegia/diparesis primarily affects the legs.
  • Spastic hemiplegia/hemiparesis impacts only one side of the body, usually an arm.
  • Spastic quadriplegia/quadriparesis affects all four limbs, the abdomen, and the face.

Athetoid Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

This type of cerebral palsy makes it difficult for individuals to control the movement in their legs, feet, arms, and hands. With athetoid dyskinetic CP, movements are uncontrollable, varying from slow to more rapid. Similarly, the muscle tone changes frequently from too loose to too tight.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

Ataxic CP primarily affects coordination and balance. Individuals affected by this type of cerebral palsy may struggle with:

  • Remaining steady while walking
  • Maintaining movements that require more control
  • Controlling their arms or hands when they reach out

Mixed Cerebral Palsy

In some cases, individuals have symptoms from several types of cerebral palsy. Usually it’s a spastic-dyskinetic combination.

Early Signs of Cerebral Palsy

Because there are different types of cerebral palsy, the symptoms can vary from person to person. Additionally, the condition can present differently depending on a child’s age. Some of cerebral palsy’s early warning signs, based on the child’s age, include:

Less Than 6 Months Old

  • Their legs become stiff and cross over when you pick them up.
  • Their muscles feel too loose or relaxed.
  • They seem stiff.

Older Than 6 Months Old

  • They don’t roll over.
  • They can’t bring their hands together.
  • They have a hard time bringing their hands to their mouth.
  • When they reach out, they only do it with one hand while the other remains in a fist.

Older Than 10 Months Old

  • They are unable to stand, even when holding onto something for support.
  • When crawling, they drag one side of their body while pushing off with the other.

What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy can be caused by many factors before, during, or even after birth. In some cases, the cause is unknown, but some of the common causes include maternal infections, congenital brain malformation, or fetal injury. When fetal brain injury occurs, it can be a result of things like:

Risk Factors

The causes of cerebral palsy vary on a case-by-case basis, but there are certain things that can occur during pregnancy or labor that increase the baby’s risk of CP, including:

  • Seizures
  • Jaundice
  • Small size for gestational age
  • Difficult or complicated labor and delivery
  • Breech fetal positioning
  • Mothers who experience seizures, excess protein in the urine, an intellectual disability, or thyroid issues
  • Exposure to toxic substances
  • Rh incompatibility between mother and child
  • Infections during pregnancy
  • Carrying multiples
  • Premature birth

Preventing Cerebral Palsy

Though cerebral palsy can’t always be prevented, there are certain risk factors that can be managed or avoided. For example, mothers can prevent contracting certain infections, such as rubella, if they make sure to get vaccinated before pregnancy. Even conditions like Rh incompatibility can be effectively managed when diagnosed early in a pregnancy. Cerebral palsy that is acquired through means such as a brain injury can often be prevented if you and your physicians use the appropriate safety protocols during and after delivery.

Even with the advancements in medical care, there are still risks involved with pregnancy and delivery that can have permanent effects. By educating yourself about cerebral palsy, you can hopefully become better equipped to reduce the risks, detect the signs, and seek treatment for your child.

Your physicians are also responsible for reducing risks and providing adequate treatment. If you suspect that your loved one’s cerebral palsy was a result of medical malpractice, you may be eligible for compensation. At Janet, Janet & Suggs, LLC, our Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers have helped more than 30,000 families decide how best to pursue their cases. Contact us today to seek the justice you and your family deserve.



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?