The Risk of CP (Cerebral Palsy), All babies born preterm are at risk for serious health problems, but those born earliest are at greater risk of medical complications, long-term disabilities and, in some severe cases, even death. Learn how medical advances have improved the chance for survival.
How does premature birth increase the risk of CP (Cerebral Palsy) ?
While a child being born preterm can result in significant challenges for that child’s death, advances in obstetrics and neonatology, the branch of pediatrics that cares for newborns, have improved the chances for survival.
Premature birth, occurring before 37 weeks, is a risk factor for development of many medical conditions, including CP (Cerebral Palsy) . A pregnancy is considered full term when gestation lasts from 37 to 42 weeks. Infants born prematurely face a number of challenges. Their bodies and nervous systems may not have fully developed, which can cause complications such as breathing problems. In addition, the mother’s womb shields the fetus from infections and various abnormalities; premature birth removes these protections and hence, many premature babies must stay in newborn intensive care units.
Premature birth does not mean a child will develop CP (Cerebral Palsy) or any health issues. Yet, nearly half of the children who do develop Cerebral Palsy were born prematurely. Many of the neurological conditions and causes associated with Cerebral Palsy (such as damage to the brain’s white matter, known as periventricular leukomalacia, or PVL) are closely linked to preterm delivery. Preterm babies also have an increased rate of infection, another significant risk factor for CP (Cerebral Palsy).
Low and very low birth weight
Low birth weight (LBW) means a child was born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces (approximately 2,500 grams) and is at a significant risk for developing Cerebral Palsy. About 7.6% of births qualify as low birth weight. The lower the birth weight of the child, the higher the risk for CP (Cerebral Palsy).
Many healthy babies are born at a low birth weight. Sometimes, babies are just small, with no reason for concern. Other times, low birth weight may be an indication that the baby has not finished developing.
Very low birth weight (VLBW) is a subset of low birth weight occurring when a baby is born weighing less than 3 pounds, 4 ounces (nearly 1,500 grams). Many very low birth weight children are also born premature. Prematurity is, in itself, a risk factor for CP (Cerebral Palsy).
Low or very low birth weight is considered to increase the likelihood of a child developing Cerebral Palsy. If the child is premature and has low birth weight, they are at greater risk than if only one of the factors exists.