A baby is born with cerebral palsy every 15 hours in Australia and it is the most common physical childhood disability.

Cerebral palsy is a general term referring to a group of disorders that affect the way a person moves. It is diagnosed soon after birth and is a permanent condition, although it does not get worse. Cerebral palsy occurs when a part of the developing brain is damaged, and it is not known how this is caused.

It is not genetic nor a disease and there is no cure at this point in time.

The severity and symptoms of cerebral palsy vary with each person. A mild example may be simply a weakness in one hand, but another person may have no control over their movements at all. In addition to movement being affected, some people can also have impaired vision, hearing, speech and learning.

Cause & Diagnosis

The causes of cerebral palsy are still largely unknown. Cerebral palsy results from damage to a part of the brain but we still do not know how or why this occurs.

There are a number of possible causes including infections in the first few months of pregnancy or shortly after birth, insufficient oxygen to the baby during or after birth or a trauma during pregnancy or infancy. We do know however, that in the vast majority of cases it occurs either in the uterus or shortly after birth.

Risks

There are a number of factors associated with a higher risk of a baby having cerebral palsy.

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Pre-term birth is a significant one, with 42% of babies with cerebral palsy born prematurely compared with 8% generally.

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Lower birth weight is another aspect linked to a higher incidence of cerebral palsy, with 43% of babies with cerebral palsy having a low birth weight compared with 6% of the population.

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Finally, multiple births are also associated with higher rates of cerebral palsy with 11% of babies with CP born as a multiple, compared with only 1.7% generally.

Please note that having one or more of these risk factors does NOT mean that a baby will born with cerebral palsy, simply that the chances are increased.

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