The words Cerebral Palsy are used to describe a medical condition that affects control of the muscles. Cerebral means anything in the head and palsy refers to anything wrong with control of the muscles or joints in the body. If someone has cerebral palsy it means that because of an injury to their brain (that’s the cerebral part) they are not able to use some of the muscles in their body in the normal way (that’s the palsy part). Children who have cerebral palsy, or CP, may not be able to walk, talk, eat or play in the same ways as most other kids.
It is important to know that CP is not a disease or illness. It isn’t contagious and it doesn’t get worse, but it is not something you “grow out of.” Children who have CP will have it all their lives.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is caused by an injury to the brain before, during, or shortly after birth. In many cases, no one knows for sure what caused the brain injury or what might have been done to prevent the injury.
Sometimes injuries to a baby’s brain happen while the baby is still in the mother’s womb (before birth). The injury might be caused by an infection or by an accident in which the mother is hurt. If a mother has a medical problem such as high blood pressure or diabetes, this can also cause problems in the baby. There may be problems during birth such as the baby not getting enough oxygen, or a difficult delivery in which the baby’s brain is injured. Problems after birth may happen when a baby is born too soon (premature delivery) and his body is not ready to live outside his mother’s womb. Even babies born at the right time can have infections, or bleeding in their brain which causes a brain injury because the brain is still developing even after birth.
The most important thing to remember is that you do not “catch” CP from another person, and you do not develop CP later in life. It is caused by an injury to the brain near the time of birth.