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What Is Cerebral Palsy? Here's Everything You Need To Know

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Angeli Del Rosario · Updated Feb 16, 2023

What Is Cerebral Palsy? Here's Everything You Need To Know

Cerebral palsy, or CP for short, is a group of disorders that affect motor abilities, including muscle movement, coordination, and posture. It is the most common motor disability in children, altering the child’s brain development. Damage to an immature brain before the infant’s birth is the main cause of cerebral palsy.

People who are affected by CP are unable to walk or stand properly. In most cases, abnormal brain development caused by cerebral palsy can also affect vision, hearing, joint issues, and how sensations are felt.

Possible Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of CP may vary widely depending on the person. However, most symptoms are movement and coordination issues. Most signs will appear around infancy or even during the preschool years.

Symptoms may include the following:

  • Abnormal muscle tone, either stiff or very limp
  • Spasticity, or inflexible muscle joints with exaggerated movements
  • Rigidity, or inflexible muscle joints with normal movement
  • Issues with balance
  • Difficulties in walking or standing
  • Improper posture or scoliosis
  • Lack of muscle coordination
  • Involuntary movements
  • Delayed, squirming movements
  • Slow-paced development of motor skills such as sitting, crawling, pushing up with arms
  • Preference of only one side of the body (dragging leg while crawling, grabbing with only one hand, etc.)
  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty in swallowing or eating in general
  • Difficulty in learning
  • Seizures

In some cases, cerebral palsy may affect only one side of the body, or just one limb.

The symptoms seen will not worsen through time and some may even occur less. This is because the disorder does not change or develop as the person ages. However physical disabilities, like muscle rigidity, may worsen if left untreated.

Moreover, cerebral palsy may cause neurological problems, including:

  • Eyesight and hearing impairment
  • Being intellectually challenged
  • Sensitive touch and/or pain receptors
  • Mental health issues
  • Bladder problems like urinary incontinence

Possible Causes

Cases of cerebral palsy point to brain damage during early infancy or during the child’s birth. Most cases involve:

  • Infections during pregnancy that may have affected the child’s growth
  • Stroke suffered by the baby either inside the womb or as an infant
  • Jaundice that was left untreated
  • Inborn genetic disorders
  • Medical complications of the mother while bearing the child
  • Brain damage while in the womb (caused by lead poisoning, bacterial meningitis, poor brain blood flow, and being shaken as a baby)

Risk factors

Premature babies are more prone to cerebral palsy

Babies that were born early have an increased chance of acquiring CP compared to babies that were born after the full term of 9 months.

Giving birth to twins or triplets

Mothers who give birth to multiple children at once have children with a higher chance of being born with cerebral palsy.

Incompatible blood

In rare cases, the mother may have a different blood type from their unborn child. This is called Rh disease.

Viruses that strike during pregnancy 

Certain viral and non-viral infections may heighten the risk of your child getting cerebral palsy, such as German measles, chickenpox, herpes, syphilis, and zika virus.

Complications during childbirth 

Certain problems may occur during childbirth. These include the baby having low birth weight, premature birth, the breech position of the baby, and other issues in delivery that may have affected the baby’s circulatory system.


Doctors watch for any possible risks or signs of cerebral palsy in babies born early. Your baby’s doctor may look for the following:

  • Delays in motor development, such as being unable to crawl, walk normally, or move limbs correctly
  • Delays in development like reaching for objects or sitting up at the right age
  • Unsynchronized motor movements
  • Muscles that are too stiff or too floppy
  • Infant reflexes that persist (palmar grasp) even when they are at the age where it should stop



There is no cure for cerebral palsy, but children can undergo therapy to help them grow and develop. As soon as the child has been diagnosed with CP, they may go through therapy sessions to aid in developing their motor skills. This also helps them grow in other areas such as learning, talking, and emotional health.

Children with mild cerebral palsy may grow to walk clumsily, but they will not need much assistance to do so. Those who experience severe cerebral palsy on the other hand, need equipment to aid them while walking, as well as being cared of for the rest of their life.


Medication will aid persons with CP in dealing with muscle pain and stiffness. Some may need a pump placed under their skin to take in the drug, but most can take medicine orally.


Surgical procedures may help in correcting curved spines and dislocated hips. Special equipment like leg braces may be used to aid in walking.

Healthy diet

Those with cerebral palsy can improve the strength of their bones by having diets that include high calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus. Dietitians, therapists, and doctors can aid the family to ensure that the child takes the right food and may advise on future diet plans and routines.

Key Takeaway

Cerebral palsy is a brain disorder most common in children. It affects their motor abilities and intellect. It can occur during complications in childbirth or early infancy.

Those with cerebral palsy need special care and attention in order to grow to their full potential. There is no current cure for the condition, but therapy sessions and special equipment may aid the child in their development.

Learn more about Neurological Diseases in Children here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Angeli Del Rosario · Updated Feb 16, 2023

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