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Causes & Types of Cerebral Palsy


  • Before Birth: Due to premature birth, RH incompatibility, genetic incompatibility, mother’s illness
  • During Birth: Due to prolonged labour, forceps delivery, cord around the neck resulting in insufficient supply of oxygen and glucose to the growing brain of the baby.
  • After Birth: An infant may suffer cerebral palsy as a result of: Meningitis, Encephalitis, Epilepsy, Jaundice or Accidents, and many other causes

Can CP be Prevented?

Little’s Theory:

There are two theories about the cause of cerebral palsy. A British orthopaedic surgeon of the nineteenth century, William Little, felt that damage to the brain occurred during childbirth. If the birth process is problematic, there is a chance that blood supply to the brain may not be adequate. This, said Little, was what caused CP. This theory had gained wide acceptance until recently.

In this case, if good obstetric care is given during pregnancy, peri-natal and neo-natal periods, the incidence of CP can be brought down dramatically.

Freud’s Theory:

When Little put forward his theory to Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, the latter rejected it. He felt that since CP was accompanied often by other disabilities and seizures, the problem must have started in the womb.

Though many children born out of difficult labour do get CP, in many cases of CP there is no apparent cause. Also, research today leads us to believe that children are not as sensitive to the short supply of oxygen as was believed. Because of these reasons, the Freud theory is gaining currency.

Problems like German Measles affect the foetus. But there must be others that we do not know much about. This makes “preventing” CP difficult. However, good gynaecological care and sound health of the mother gives the child a better chance of escaping CP.

Types of Cerebral Palsy

Spastic: This is the most common type of CP. Here the child’s muscles are tense and contracted. The child makes weak movements or has difficulty moving at all.

Athetoid: The child exhibits constant, uncontrolled motion of limbs, head, and eyes.

Rigid: In this condition tight muscles resist efforts to make them move.

Ataxic: The child has a poor sense of balance, often causing the child to fall and stumble.

Tremor: The child exhibits uncontrollable shaking, which interferes with co-ordination.

There may also be a combination of vision, speech, hearing and learning problems.


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