Cerebral palsy is the term used to describe a wide range of forms of brain damage typically suffered during fetal development or infancy. This condition tends to distort the communication from the brain to the muscles, resulting in either overstrained or hyper-relaxed muscles. One of the most frightening things about cerebral palsy is that it does not appear as a particular set of symptoms during pregnancy and infancy. This means that it can be very difficult to diagnose until the child has been alive for many months.
That being said, there are a few risk factors for cerebral palsy of which all parents should be aware. For one thing, pregnancies that end with a difficult or complicated birth are more likely to produce children with cerebral palsy. Specifically, children who begin labor in a feet-first, or breech position, are especially susceptible to cerebral palsy. Also, babies who have a low birth weight or are premature are more likely to suffer from cerebral palsy. Finally, the risk of brain damage is higher when the mother develops an infection or another condition that impairs the flow of blood into the uterus or placenta. On a slightly more optimistic note, it should be said that the vast majority of children who have one of these risk factors do not suffer any significant brain damage.
As advances in medical technology have diminished the incidence of injury during birth, an increasing proportion of cerebral palsy cases are attributed to premature birth. For this reason, most of the guidelines aimed at reducing cerebral palsy are consistent with the general guidelines for avoiding early birth. For instance, pregnant women should eat nutritious foods and avoid hard work or stress. They should also receive any appropriate immunizations in consultation with their doctor. One immunization that most doctors will recommend is the vaccine against rubella, as this disease can lead to a deleterious infection. Most importantly, women should visit the doctor early and often during pregnancy. Frequent check-ups allow doctors to manage health and foresee any potential problems with the pregnancy. If these guidelines are followed, the risk of cerebral palsy can be diminished as far as possible.
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