top of page


What Causes Cerebral Palsy?

The exact cause of cerebral palsy in an individual is rarely known with 100% certainty, but there are many different events that could cause CP to manifest in a person. These include, but are not limited to:

Before conception:

  • Genetic causes; these are rare and uncertain

  • Maternal risk factors and health problems; including socioeconomic status, smoking and alcohol use, diabetes, and other conditions (note: these do not cause CP, but may lead to an event that does)

Early pregnancy:

  • Chromosomal abnormalities

  • Congenital infections (e.g., rubella and cytomegalovirus)

Later pregnancy:

  • PVL (Periventricular leukomalacia); damage to the white matter of the brain in utero.

  • IVH (Intraventricular haemorrhage); bleeding in the brain ventricles.

  • These are common in premature babies and may also be caused by damage sustained in an accident while the baby is in utero. Variations and combinations of brain-damaging events like these may occur.

Just before, during, or just after birth:

  • Hypoxic–ischaemic injury; occurs when there is not enough oxygen or blood flow to the brain.

  • Perinatal stroke; caused by an embolism and is often not detected at first.

  • Birth trauma

  • Neonatal (newborn) infection

Postnatal (after birth) causes:

  • Bacterial infection (e.g., meningitis)

  • Other inflammatory disorders

  • Trauma (accidental or non-accidental)

  • Malaria and other infectious diseases

(Rosenbaum 2012)

bottom of page