Problems before birth
Cerebral palsy is most often due to a problem that affects the development of a baby's brain while it's growing in the womb.
- periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) – damage to part of the brain called white matter, possibly as a result of a reduction in the baby's blood or oxygen supply
- an infection caught by the mother – such as cytomegalovirus, rubella, chickenpox or toxoplasmosis
- a stroke in the baby – this is where there's bleeding in the baby's brain or the blood supply to their brain is cut off
- an injury to the unborn baby's head
Problems during or after birth
Cerebral palsy is also sometimes caused by damage to a baby's brain during or shortly after birth.
For example, it can be due to:
There are some things that can increase a baby's risk of being born with cerebral palsy.
- being born prematurely (before the 37th week of pregnancy) – babies born at 32 weeks or earlier are at a particularly high risk
- a low birth weight
- a twin or multiple pregnancy
- the mother being 35 years of age or older
- the mother having unusually low blood pressure or high blood pressure
Your doctor may recommend that your baby has regular check-ups to look for symptoms of cerebral palsy for the first two years of their life if there's an increased risk they could have cerebral palsy.