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Accidental injury during pregnancy was associated with increased risk of cerebral palsy (CP) for babies in a recently published study.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common motor disability of childhood.  Approximately one in 345 children are currently diagnosed with CP, which is a collection of disorders that affect how a person moves, walks, and maintains posture and balance.

Cerebral palsy can be caused by a number of factors, including traumatic birth injury, premature birth, being a multiple or conception using assisted reproductive technology, or suffering infection in utero or after birth. CP is usually diagnosed within the first two years of life.

A new study from ICES and McGill University explored whether unintentional injury during pregnancy could increase the risk of cerebral palsy in an unborn child. While it is obvious that injury, such as a car accident, during pregnancy can and is damaging to mothers and their unborn children, little research addressed neurodevelopmental outcomes of children born to women who suffered serious injury while pregnant. Study authors found that the children of women who experienced accidental injury had a higher risk of CP—with increased risk seen with more severe injury.

Findings of the study published in JAMA Pediatrics included:

  • Children exposed to injury during pregnancy had a modest increase in risk of CP when compared to babies who were not exposed to injury.
  • Severe injury that resulted in the hospitalization of mom and the resulting delivery of the baby within a week increased the risk of the child to CP.
  • In this study of 2,110,177 births between the years 2002 and 2017, about eight percent of women experienced more than one injury during their pregnancy.

Trauma experienced by a mother can trigger dangerous conditions for a baby, including premature birth, placental abruption, or uterine rupture—all dangerous conditions for an unborn child.

Lead author, Dr. Asma Ahmed said “We need to provide better support for babies whose mothers have been injured in pregnancy, especially after severe injuries. As well, these findings suggest the need for early monitoring of babies’ development, regular check-ups and longer-term neurodevelopmental assessments.”

This study alerts healthcare providers of the longer-term need for monitoring and treatment for mom and her precious cargo if an accident occurs during pregnancy.

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