Cerebral Palsy Statistics

Recent figures suggest that the annual number of babies born with cerebral palsy, which has been relatively steady for the last 50 years or so, may be falling. Here are some interesting cerebral palsy statistics from the study.

Cerebral Palsy Facts

In developed countries, the rate of cerebral palsy is about 2 to 2.5 per 1,000 live births. The United Cerebral Palsy Foundation estimates that nearly 800,000 children and adults in the United States are living with the condition and about 10,000 babies are born with it each year.  The condition is significantly more common among infants born weighing less than 3.3 pounds (1.5kg).

A recent study carried out at Liverpool University, UK, (by Dr. Mary Jane Platt, The Lancet, January 2007) looked at changes in cerebral palsy rates recorded at 16 European cerebral palsy centres from 1980 to 1996.  The study found that the rate of cerebral palsy in very low birth-weight infants and those born at less than 32 weeks dropped from six percent of live births in 1980 to four percent in 1996, despite an increase in the number of very low birth weight babies. The study noted that this decline was due to a drop in the incidence of the most severe type of cerebral palsy and was probably due to improved care at and around the time of birth.

In commenting on the Liverpool University study, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, said the findings are consistent with their research on low birth weight infants, adding that despite the encouraging decrease in the prevalence of cerebral palsy there is no cause for complacency as the condition is still associated with major disabilities.

Other research teams in the UK, Denmark and Sweden have also found evidence that the cerebral palsy rate among low birth weight infants has begun to fall, but other studies from centres in Australia and Emory University, Atlanta (Sarah Winter MD, et al, Pediatrics December 2002), have not shown a fall.

The study carried out in Atlanta from 1975 to 1991 found a modest increase from 1.7 to 2.0 per 1,000 babies who survived for at least a year.  Of most concern is that this trend was primarily attributable to a slight increase in cerebral palsy in infants of normal birth weight, although no change was seen in low birth weight and very low birth weight infants.

What can we do to reduce cerebral palsy rates in the future?

After investigating possible links to fetal heart rate monitoring and caesarean deliveries, Dr. Steven L. Clark MD of the University of Utah (American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, March 2003) concludes, “Except in rare instances, cerebral palsy is a developmental event that is unpreventable given our current state of technology.”

Given the circumstances surrounding my birth and the fact that my mother said it was a difficult birth, I believe more could have been done to prevent my problem, had my mum not had to wait so long between my twin’s birth and mine. Being born one hour later than my twin sister meant there was a high likelihood I would get into difficulty.

Although in the 1960s when I was born technology wasn’t as advanced as it is today, I believe human error could also be a significant factor. My case has proved the risks could be minimised.

It’s not enough to put cerebral palsy down to a birth problem. There are of course cases of premature birth, or difficulty around the birth; or something goes wrong at the time of birth or in the womb. But cerebral palsy seems to have become an ‘acceptable risk’; the problem is we’ve become too complacent about birth generally and that needs to change.

There is some evidence that cerebral palsy rates have fallen because of improved care, and that must continue. If care had been improved around my birth, my mum wouldn’t have got into difficulty and it is highly likely that I wouldn’t have been born with the condition.

Source: Psych Central.com


30 Mar, 2014

8 thoughts on “Cerebral Palsy Statistics

  1. Good information. I know a child that was born at 24 weeks who has a very mild case of CP. I do believe it is due to his very early birth.

    I believe if pre-natal care is followed very well, the cases would also drop. I’m a stickler to pre-natal care. The child I I’m talking about, I believe his mom wasn’t doing a very good job at pre-natal care and may have been doing drugs while pregnant.

    I think you’ve done a very good job here with this blog. You’ve covered it all!

    1. Thanks Lisa! I hope this research goes some way for us to understand more about the statistics surrounding occurrences of CP at birth.

      I agree as you say pre-natal care is also very important. It would be interesting to find out how ante-natal care works in America. In the UK ante-natal classes are optional.

      1. We have pre-natal classes here and birthing classes where they teach you about birth and how to breath through it or how your suppose to breath through it. They are also optional here. I think some of the best pre-natal care people can get, are through midwives and doulas.

        I know a midwife and a doula and they are the best.

  2. This is a really informative blog. I think it is terrible that even with the huge technological advances in the last few decades that CP rates haven’t declined to any great extent.

    This suggests to me that there are a number of other key factors involved. Either the occurrences of CP are nothing to do with the use of technology in birth or are down to management during the late stages of pregnancy and birth; or possibly that it is a random event that can be neither foreseen nor controlled. The latter is of course out of anyone’s control.

    In these circumstances there is an obligation to minimise occurrences which may in any way be attributed to management during pregnancy and birth, by both the mother and pre and post natal staff involved.

    At least this is within our control and this is therefore something we can change. This precautionary approach may help, however little.

    1. You’ve made some very valid points and I agree.

      When I was born, technology was not as advanced and therefore hospital staff should have been the eyes and ears.

      Technology is important but think the eyes and ears are more important. We have to apply the knowledge we have through an element of care. I believe that will make a big difference.

  3. My guess is that they did wait far too long to deliver you, which caused the majority of your problems. The technology wasn’t available then which would have shown you were in trouble. I’m not even sure how common C-sections were back then, if they needed to do that. I know with my daughter they actually rushed her into an emergency C-section when they realized her heart rate kept dropping with each contraction.

    They didn’t allow me to go into the operating room so I wasn’t aware of what was actually happening. I’m guessing they didn’t expect her to survive which would have really freaked me out. I think we were just too much in shock afterwards to follow up to see what had really gone on.

    We probably should have, but we were just glad she was alive! The reality was that we were both very young and immature, but I tried to do the best I could to make sure she got what she needed!

    I think it is truly a shame when parents don’t fully accept their children’s difficulties and do what they can to help them. I often wonder what would have happened to my siblings and I if one of us had actually been physically disabled.

    So many people have perfectly healthy children who least deserve them which saddens me to no end. It’s great that you finally found out what your problems were, but I know deep down you wish they had done more!

    1. Thank you so much for this Randy. Your response really helps.

      Please try not to be too hard on yourself. You’d been through such a frightening time not knowing what was happening to your daughter, I think anyone in your situation would have just been thankful their baby made it. From your response Randy, you sound incredibly mature if a little in shock. When we’re in shock our rationale disappears as we tend to overlook just about everything!

      As you say, you’ve given your daughter what she needs and that’s all that matters now. We cannot turn back the clock, it’s a case of finding a place for our experiences and moving on the best we can.

      I agree with your thoughts on my own situation. You’re right I wish everyone had done more.

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