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Your pregnancy

Cerebral Palsy Prevention

A mother’s story, cerebral palsy prevention.

When I became pregnant. I was scared to death, when I found out. I went to get my pregnancy test from the local public health department. I was told that I should have an abortion because I was a high risk. But I was not given any information of why I was a high risk. Nor what my next steps should be. I went home feeling like I had a 1000 pound weight on my shoulders. I was 17, afraid and not sure what I should do. For me abortion was out. Once my parents found out a few weeks later it took us nearly 6 months to get me health care. If I had been given the proper tools, I believe things could have been different.

When I was 3 months pregnant. I had a fever of 103 for 3 days. I was sick as could be and my fever just never seemed to break. I did not find out till my daughter was 14 that this is probably the time she suffered from a stroke in utero. My body was fighting her body. But that wasn’t all of it. I had a blood disorder called ITP. Which was not discovered until my 4th child.

So yes I was a high risk pregnancy but what can be done to ensure that high risk pregnancies do not result in a child with a disability. In some cases nothing. Had I had the finances and the hindsight to check with a physician the minute my fever would not break instead of believing it was just my normal getting sick. I didn't realize my daughter needed help then and there.

When we discovered my ITP during my fourth pregnancy things were very different. They checked my blood often and the slightest sniffle meant a visit to the doctor. My 5th child we did many ultrasounds working with University of Washington to ensure he was safe. Times have changed and many improvements have been made.

Because my team of doctors were armed with the knowledge of my blood disorder they saved both of my youngest children from struggles. It is extremely important that you give your doctor your medical history for your pregnancies prior as well as your own health history. You do have a right to request your medical records from doctors and hospitals to provide to any other medical professional you work with. 

As a mom who has a child with Cerebral Palsy and high risk pregnancies I can not stress to you enough to make sure you do the following to help prevent cerebral palsy.

  1. Do not smoke (If you smoked before your pregnancy check with your physician as to the best way to stop)
  2. Do not drink or take illegal drugs (same applies here if these are issues, talk to your physician. You’re not a bad person if you did any of them. Seeking help to protect your child’s health is vital.)
  3. Take precautions if you have any long-term illnesses (such as diabetes or problems with your thyroid) or take prescription medications. Talk with your health professional about what you need to do for a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
  4. Get enough folic acid. Women who are planning to become pregnant or who already are pregnant should take daily vitamin supplements containing 400 micrograms (mcg) folic acid.
  5. Make sure you are immune to German Measles (rubella) having rubella during pregnancy can cause a variety of serious birth defects. If you have had rubella or have been vaccinated against it, you are protected from becoming infected. If you have not had rubella or had the vaccination, make sure you are immunized at least 4 weeks before trying to become pregnant. If you don't know whether you are immune to rubella, you can be tested to see whether you need the vaccine.
  6. Get treatment for ALL infections. If you develop signs of an infection during pregnancy, such as fever or unusual vaginal discharge, call your health professional.
  7. Avoid people who are sick. Be especially careful around those with illnesses such as rubella that increase a fetus's risk of developing cerebral palsy when the mother is infected during pregnancy.
  8. Avoid exposure to harmful substances, such as radiation
  9. Eat a balanced diet. Most health professionals suggest taking vitamin supplements that contain all the needed vitamins and minerals (including folic acid) during pregnancy.
  10. Do get an ultrasound- Ultrasounds today have much more detail and depth and can help detect early risks and defects.
  11. Do go to all your doctor visits-  Even if something seems silly tell your doctor. If something doesn’t feel right or seem right. They can not help you if you don’t tell them what is going on.
  12. Get medical care as soon as possible. The early you seek medical care the less risk for your child.

If needed, take Rh immune globulin (such as BayRhoD, Gamulin Rh, or RhoGAM) after giving birth to your first child. A simple blood test can detect differences in blood (Rh factor) between you and your fetus while you are pregnant. Taking immune globulin after you deliver your first baby with a different Rh factor can prevent problems from developing during future pregnancies.

If I had known what I know now about Cerebral Palsy prevention we could have possibly helped it not occur with my daughter. I do not look back on that now, because of the wonderful wonderful person she is. But it is my hope and goal that not one more child has to go through any of the things that we have. Please please please take care of yourself when you are pregnant and seek immediate medical attention if you "feel something just isn't right".

Below you will find some links about research and prevention.


International Preterm Birth Collaborative

National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, CDC

March of Dimes, USA Events in bioscience and medicine

European Meetings and Courses in the Area of Functional Genomics

Cerebral Palsy Research

Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation

Cerebral Palsy Research Mayo Clinic

credit for this article goes to Dena Kirchoff© The Cerebral Palsy Network 2007


 The Cerebral Palsy Network©1997/2014. All graphics are the exclusive property of CPN, unless otherwise indicated. Contact Cerebral Palsy Network   for further information. Last updated 04/23/14