How to Prevent Cerebral Palsy During Pregnancy. Cerebral palsy refers to a range of conditions that impact movement, muscle tone, and posture. It is caused by aberrant brain development or injury to the developing brain, which usually occurs before birth. As a parent expecting a baby, you likely want to do everything possible to have a healthy pregnancy and protect your child from conditions like cerebral palsy. While not all cases can be prevented, there are essential steps you can take to lower your baby’s risk. Let’s explore how to avoid cerebral palsy during pregnancy.
What Causes Cerebral Palsy?
First, it helps to understand the potential causes of cerebral palsy. In many cases, the exact cause is unknown. However, some contributing factors include:
- Genetics: Cerebral palsy can run in families. Certain genetic conditions, mutations, or inherited brain abnormalities may increase risk.
- Maternal infections: Infections during pregnancy like rubella, cytomegalovirus, toxoplasmosis, or syphilis can damage the fetal brain and cause cerebral palsy in the baby.
- Fetal stroke: A stroke in the developing baby can disrupt oxygen to the brain. This often happens when blood flow is impaired through the placenta.
- Preterm birth: Babies born too early, before 37 weeks, are at higher risk because their brains are still developing.
- Birth complications: Difficult deliveries, cord problems, or oxygen deprivation during the birth process may damage the brain.
- Brain abnormalities: Brain malformations, cysts, or other structural issues can disrupt normal development.
Knowing the potential factors allows you to take preventative steps where possible. While not every case can be avoided, being proactive gives your baby the best chance at a healthy start.
How to Prevent Cerebral Palsy During Pregnancy
One of the most important ways to prevent cerebral palsy is through maintaining good health and nutrition during pregnancy. By taking care of your overall well-being, you provide the conditions your baby needs for proper brain development.
- Get early and regular prenatal care. Seeing your doctor on a regular basis assists you to spot any potential problems early on. Testing can detect infections, genetic disorders, and other issues that must be addressed.
- Take prenatal vitamins. Vitamins with folic acid, B12, and iron ensure you and your baby get enough nutrients to support growth. A lack of critical vitamins can impair development.
- Eat a balanced diet. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. Stay hydrated and limit junk food. Providing quality nutrition fuels your baby’s growth.
- Achieve a healthy weight. Being significantly overweight or underweight can increase pregnancy complications. Work with your doctor on safe weight goals and exercise.
- Manage chronic conditions. Follow treatment plans for diabetes, hypertension, thyroid disease, or other conditions that could impair fetal development if left unchecked.
Making healthy choices sets your pregnancy up for success and lowers risks that could contribute to cerebral palsy.
Maternal infections during pregnancy are a known risk factor for cerebral palsy. Taking preventative measures to avoid infections protects your baby’s developing brain.
- Your doctor can test for immunity levels and potential exposures to infections like rubella, CMV, and toxoplasmosis. Steps can be taken if you are at risk.
- Get recommended vaccines before and during pregnancy, like flu and Tdap. Staying up to date provides immunity and prevents illness.
- Follow good hygiene and food safety habits. Avoid exposure to sick individuals when possible. Preventing contagions of all kinds is ideal.
- If you do get sick, follow the doctor’s orders for safe treatment. Leaving infections unchecked allows further damage.
Stopping infections before they start is critical, as is promptly treating any that do occur. Protecting your own health guards your baby as well
Manage Existing Conditions
If you have any medical conditions, be diligent about managing them under your doctor’s care. Uncontrolled chronic conditions can impair fetal growth and brain development.
- Diabetes needs careful blood sugar control to prevent abnormalities.
- Hypertension requires medication and lifestyle changes to avoid complications.
- Autoimmune diseases like lupus may need medication adjustments to control flares.
- Thyroid disorders need hormone level monitoring and treatment as needed.
- Genetic conditions may need specialized prenatal care.
Staying on top of your health keeps your pregnancy low-risk. Tell your doctor about any conditions you have so proper steps can be taken. Managing issues prevents them from negatively impacting your baby.
Maintain Good Blood Flow to the Baby
Proper blood flow from mom to baby provides oxygen and nutrients for growth. Problems with the placenta or umbilical cord can restrict flow and cause complications.
- Quit smoking and alcohol. These impede blood flow and oxygenation to the developing brain. Quitting improves circulation.
- Treat clotting disorders. Certain blood conditions increase clot risk. Blood thinners and frequent monitoring can help.
- Rest on your left side. This takes the pressure off major blood vessels supplying the placenta for maximum flow.
- Manage chronic hypertension. High blood pressure can damage blood vessels. Medication helps keep tension in a safe zone.
- Exercise regularly. Activity improves circulation and prevents blood vessel problems that could disrupt flow.
Do your part to ensure a healthy placenta, umbilical cord, and ideal circulation to nourish your baby’s brain development throughout pregnancy.
Learn more: How to Prevent Anesthesia Awareness.
Lower Risk of Preterm Delivery
Babies born prematurely at fewer than 37 weeks are at higher risk of cerebral palsy. Taking steps to carry your baby as close to full term as possible is protective.
- Get prenatal care. Your doctor can monitor for early labor signs and cervical changes so any issues can be addressed.
- Eat well and exercise. Proper nutrition and activity reduce the chances of preterm birth.
- Reduce stress. Chronic high stress is linked to early labor. Practice relaxation techniques and self-care.
- Avoid risky substances. Alcohol and tobacco use increase preterm risks. Quitting is best.
- Limit activity. After the midpoint of pregnancy, overexertion can trigger contractions. Balance rest and light exercise.
- Watch for warning signs. Report uterine contractions, pelvic pressure, or increased discharge, which could indicate preterm labor.
Taking a full-term approach lowers the odds of delivering too soon. Aim to keep your baby developing for as long as safely possible.
Prepare for a Healthy Labor and Delivery
The birth process itself poses potential risks, especially in complicated deliveries. How you prepare and work with your doctor can influence outcomes.
- Learning technique helps you actively manage pain and pushing during labor.
- Decide if you want to try vaginal birth or schedule a C-section. Either may be safest, depending on your particular pregnancy.
- Share your preferences for interventions and pain relief. Make contingency plans for complications.
- Look for an obstetrician or midwife experienced in handling high-risk deliveries if needed.
- Ensure the facility has a level NICU and staff skilled in birth complications in case issues arise.
- Discuss any conditions or concerns that could make delivery more complex so a careful plan can be made.
Preparing reduces labor uncertainties and empowers you to make the best decisions during delivery. A healthy birth is the goal.
React Quickly to Any Concerning Symptoms
During pregnancy, specific troubling symptoms need prompt medical attention. Timely treatment of issues improves outcomes and prevents further harm.
Contact your doctor right away or go to the ER for:
- Heavy vaginal bleeding or hemorrhage
- Regular contractions or preterm labor signs before 37 weeks
- Water breaking too early
- Severe abdominal pain
- Severe headaches, changes in vision, swelling
- Decreased fetal movement
- High blood pressure
- Trauma from a fall or accident
Listen to your body and be attentive to signs of concern. Waiting to seek help allows problems to worsen. Quick reaction ensures the best care.
While not every case of cerebral palsy can be prevented, focusing on your health, managing risks, preventing infections, planning delivery, and responding quickly to issues during pregnancy go a long way in lowering your baby’s risk. Work closely with your medical team and make intelligent choices to do all you can to have a healthy pregnancy. Protecting your baby’s developing brain is a top priority on the path to parenthood. Diligent prenatal care and prevention give your child the best possible start in life.