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