Is cerebral palsy inherited? What are the odds of having another child with cerebral palsy?
To help you better understand the link between genetics and cerebral palsy, this article will explain:
- the most common causes of CP
- the role genetics plays in CP
- the chances of having multiple children with CP
Is Cerebral Palsy Inherited?
Long story short, cerebral palsy is not inherited.
Cerebral palsy describes a range of various motor disabilities that result from damage to the brain before, during, or shortly after birth.
There is no single gene that specifically causes cerebral palsy.
However, it is suspected that a combination of multiple genes can increase the chances of having cerebral palsy.
Random mutations in the genes that affect brain development may also increase the risk of developing cerebral palsy.
Common Causes of Cerebral Palsy
If there isn’t a specific gene for cerebral palsy, what causes it?
Common causes of cerebral palsy include:
- Premature birth
- Bleeding in the brain
- Brain infections
- Lack of oxygen in the brain
- Abnormal brain development
- Head injury very early in life
Generally, any sort of early damage to the motor cortex, cerebellum, thalamus, or basal ganglia of the brain can cause cerebral palsy.
Acquired vs. Congenital Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy can be acquired or congenital. The key to understanding the difference between acquired and congenital CP is in identifying the cause of brain damage.
Acquired cerebral palsy is when cerebral palsy is developed due to damage to the brain within a few years following birth. It’s caused by environmental factors and has nothing to do with a person’s genes. Causes of acquired cerebral palsy include infections, cerebrovascular accidents, and head injuries.
In contrast, congenital cerebral palsy is when damage to the brain occurs during pregnancy or at birth. Many times, congenital cerebral palsy is not diagnosed right away, as young infants do not move as frequently and naturally demonstrate uncoordinated movements.
Mild forms of congenital cerebral palsy may not be evident until the child starts to get a little older and demonstrates developmental motor delays, such as difficulties rolling, sitting or walking.
Cerebral Palsy in Multiple Births
Twins have a higher risk of cerebral palsy than single born babies.
This may be in part due to the fact that premature births (one of the major causes of cerebral palsy) are more common in twins.
It could also be due to the increasing prevalence of low birth weights in multiple birth pregnancies.
Even more so, triplets and quadruplets have even higher risks for being born with cerebral palsy. Generally, as the number of babies in the womb increases, the risk of pregnancy complications increases as well.
Death or cerebral palsy in one twin significantly increases the risk of cerebral palsy in the other twin. Additionally, risks of cerebral palsy tend to increase if both babies are of the same gender.
However, genetic influences on cerebral palsy are very minimal.
To put all this information into perspective, ~90% of the time, only one twin will have cerebral palsy.
Can Cerebral Palsy Be Passed Down?
Most individuals with cerebral palsy have perfectly healthy children that don’t have cerebral palsy.
It’s not so much that there are genes that specifically cause cerebral palsy, but rather that there are genes can that increase one’s likelihood for variations in brain development.
While there is some research to suggest that genes may play a greater role in cerebral palsy, it is still in its early stages and needs to be further understood.
That’s a wrap! Hopefully, this article helped you better understand how genetics can affect cerebral palsy.
Featured images: ©iStock.com/Deagreez/jarenwicklund/kckate16/arto_canon