Cerebral Palsy (CP) is a result of injury to or abnormal development of the brain. In many cases, the exact cause of this injury is not known. The damage or abnormality may occur during pregnancy, birth, or within the first 2 to 3 years of life.
- Possible causes of CP related to pregnancy or birth: can be related to genetic or chromosomal problems, infections or health problems in the mother or fetus during pregnancy, or complications related to labor and delivery. Any of these problems can affect how a fetus grows or deprive a fetus or newborn of needed blood, oxygen, or nutrients. Health problems in a newborn, such as untreated low blood sugar, can also cause brain damage that leads to CP.
- Possible causes of CP related to an early or premature birth are related to the brain's development. Babies born too early are at risk for bleeding in the brain (intraventricular hemorrhage, or IVH). A condition called periventricular leukomalacia, or PVL, which reflects injury to the white matter of the brain, is also more likely in babies born prematurely than in those born at full term. Both IVH and PVL put a baby at risk for cerebral palsy.
- Possible causes of CP within the first 2 or 3 years of life are usually related to brain damage from a serious illness, such as meningitis; a brain injury, such as from an accident or fall; or not enough oxygen getting to the brain tissue, such as from a near-drowning incident.