IUGR and Cerebral Palsy: How Are They Related?

Causes of Cerebral Palsy, Cerebral Palsy Diagnosis

Two babies, one much smaller than the other, with 'IUGR' patch on knit cap

Pregnancy is one of the most exciting times in a mother-to-be’s life. It’s also one of the most stressful times, as she does everything possible to help ensure a smooth delivery and a healthy, happy baby. Of course, in every pregnancy there lies the potential for possible risk to the health of baby and mother.

One of those complications is known as intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) — also known as fetal growth restriction (FGR) — a condition in which a baby fails to grow to normal weight while in the womb. IUGR can increase the risk of brain trauma, including cerebral palsy, which can lead to permanent cognitive and physical damage. However, understanding how and why IUGR occurs can help mothers and doctors prevent it and, therefore, reduce the risk of cerebral palsy and permanent brain damage.

What Is IUGR?

IUGR occurs when a fetus does not develop as it should. The common weight of unborn babies with IUGR falls below the 10th percentile, which means that they weigh less than 90% of other unborn babies of the same gestational age. Not all babies who are small for their gestational age will develop cerebral palsy, but the occurrence of IUGR does increase the risk.

There are two basic types of IUGR: primary and secondary. Primary, also known as symmetric, IUGR develops when all of the organs of the fetus are too small. Secondary, or asymmetric, IUGR arises when the brain and head develop to normal size, but the abdomen is too small. Secondary IUGR is the more common of the two, which is good news because it’s less commonly associated with neurological damage than primary IUGR.

Still, a lower-than-normal weight and a lack of oxygen during birth are two potential complications of IUGR. Both of these increase the risk of injury during labor, and include the risks of of brain damage and cerebral palsy, which can affect physical and cognitive development for the rest of a child’s life.

How Is IUGR Caused?

Intrauterine growth restriction occurs when one or more health issues prevent an unborn baby from getting necessary oxygen and nutrients, which slows the infant’s growth as a result. IUGR is more likely to occur in women who are carrying twins or triplets, or in mothers who previously had a baby with IUGR. But it can happen for a number of reasons, including when the mother has one or more of the following conditions.

  • Placental insufficiency, which occurs when the tissue that transports the oxygen and nutrients to a baby isn’t attached or working properly
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Too few red blood cells (anemia)
  • Long-term lung or kidney conditions
  • Limited blood flow through the umbilical cord
  • Autoimmune conditions such as lupus
  • Birth defects or genetic disorders
  • Smoking, alcohol, or drug use during pregnancy
  • Poor nutrition or weight gain

Preventing IUGR and Cerebral Palsy

Because babies with IUGR can potentially experience long-term brain damage, it’s incredibly important for mothers and families to understand the causes and risk factors involved. Talk with your doctor about the risks so that you can be monitored for any health issues and have your baby screened for normal growth. If your physician can identify a potential problem in fetal growth before it escalates, you may be able to reverse the risks in order to stimulate your baby’s healthy growth and development.

Experienced Cerebral Palsy Attorneys in Your Corner

If you believe your child’s cerebral palsy was caused by a doctor’s medical neglect or error, the Cerebral Palsy Family Lawyers at Janet, Janet & Suggs are here to offer the educational and legal resources you need to help your child gain an improved quality of life. Contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss the next steps in your case, so you and your family can begin the road to recovery.

Was Your Child's CP Preventable?