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Cerebral Palsy

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy (also called CP) is a condition that affects movement and posture. Cerebral palsy is caused when a baby's brain is damaged. This usually happens before, during or just after birth.

The damage may be caused by an infection during pregnancy, such as rubella (German measles), or by a lack of oxygen to a baby's brain during birth. Sometimes no cause can be found.

Cerebral palsy varies from baby to baby. Some babies are hardly affected at all, whereas others may have major disabilities.

There are different types, including:

  • Spastic CP, which is the commonest form of cerebral palsy. This causes the body's muscles to become stiff and weak.

  • Athetoid or dyskinetic CP affects posture and often causes unwanted movements.

  • Ataxic CP affects balance. People with ataxic CP may have shaky hand movements.

How common is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is uncommon, which means it's unlikely to affect your baby. It is thought that about one child in 400 in the UK has some form of cerebral palsy.

How will I find out about cerebral palsy?

Most babies with cerebral palsy are diagnosed in their first year. Some children are not diagnosed until they are two or three or even older. That's because doctors may need to assess how well a child copes with milestones that need physical coordination, such as sitting, crawling and walking.

What's the treatment for cerebral palsy?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for cerebral palsy. A variety of drugs and treatments can help to alleviate your baby’s symptoms and make her feel better.

Depending on the type of cerebral palsy your baby has, she may be able to have physiotherapy. This can help teach her how to control her head movements and sit, roll over, crawl and walk.

A physiotherapist can also show you how to feed, carry and dress your baby without damaging her muscles. Speech therapy can help if your baby has difficulty swallowing or chewing.