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Risk of Cerebral Palsy Increased with Late-Term and Premature Births

According to new research, delivering a child either early or late in the pregnancy both appear to increase the risk of cerebral palsy

A study was published September 1 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), and was initiated to confirm beliefs among doctors that cerebral palsy risk was increased by preterm delivery.

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 research was headed by Dr. Dag Moster, a neonatologist at the University of Bergen. He and his team used the Medical Birth Registry of Norway to comb through the births of 1.7 million children born between 1967 and 2001 and tracked those children through 2005.

Their findings indicate that children born at term, 40 weeks, had the lowest risk of developing cerebral palsy. However, being born early or late increased the risk significantly. Children born at 37 weeks had a 90% increase in the risk of cerebral palsy, while children born at 42 weeks or later had a 40% increased risk. Even with the increased risk, the total number of children who developed cerebral palsy was small; only about 1,900 out of all the children surveyed developed cerebral palsy.

The researchers do not have an explanation for why children’s brains are more vulnerable to cerebral palsy risk if born preterm or postterm, and factoring in gender, the age of the mother and socioeconomic factors appeared to make little difference.

In some cases, a medical mistake may be responsible for cerebral palsy in a child if a preventable error caused the child’s brain to be deprived of oxygen for an extended period of time. Medical malpractice lawsuits for cerebral palsy are often filed when the disability could have been prevented with the exercise of proper standards of medical care.

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