Risk of Cerebral Palsy from Brain Problems Increased with Night Births: Study

The findings of a new study seem to indicate that children born at night may be at a greater risk of suffering neonatal encephalopathy, which is a rare brain problem that can be fatal or lead to cerebral palsy or epilepsy. 

The study was published online last week by the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Researchers looked at two million births in California over a 14-year period. They looked for any correlations between time of day or time of year and the development of neonatal encephalopathy, attempting to eliminate any other factors. They found that newborns delivered between 10 P.M. and 4 A.M. had a 22% increased risk of the brain problems.

There have been prior studies that linked poor birth outcomes to night time deliveries, with some suggesting that reduced hospital staffs or medical mistakes by tired healthcare providers may contribute to those results. However the new study focuses on the development of neonatal encephalopathy.

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The cause of neonatal encephalopathy is unknown, so the researchers have not drawn nay conclusions on how to prevent the condition. It is a neurological syndrome that afflicts more than 10,000 newborns in the U.S. each year. Half of those infants will die or develop epilepsy or cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is caused by an injury to the infant’s brain that can occur before, during or shortly after birth. If the brain of a baby is deprived of oxygen, it can result in irreversible damage that leaves the child with developmental problems, loss of motor functions and other life-long injuries and disabilities associated with cerebral palsy.

Symptoms of cerebral palsy are commonly associated with seizures, sensory impairments and cognitive limitation, and can range from mild cerebral palsy to a severe disability.

The researchers from the University of California School of Medicine said that their findings do not prove that there is a link between neonatal encephalopathy and nighttime deliveries, as there could be an unknown factor involved. The researchers suggested that more studies be done to discover why the night time risk increase exists.


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