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Will my next child have cerebral palsy, too?
Jennifer Glenpool
Jennifer, since you have one child with cerebral palsy, it's natural for you to wonder whether you might have another child with the same condition. Approximately one in 300 children has cerebral palsy. Children with cerebral palsy have problems with movement and posture. Some also have developmental delay, sensory and communication difficulties and seizures. Some children with cerebral palsy have only mild symptoms and others have more severe symptoms.

Cerebral palsy results from malformation or damage to the baby's developing brain during pregnancy, delivery or infancy. There are many different causes of cerebral palsy including genetic syndromes, chromosome abnormalities, serious infection during pregnancy, alcohol or drugs during pregnancy, medical complications during pregnancy, premature delivery, complications during labor and delivery and brain infection during infancy. In about one-quarter of the cases, the cause of cerebral palsy is never determined.

It would be best for you to talk with your pediatrician and obstetrician to see whether the cause of your child's cerebral palsy has been determined. You might also ask your doctor for a referral to a genetic counselor for an evaluation. If your child has a genetic syndrome or a chromosomal abnormality, the genetic counselor can help determine your chance of having the same problem in another pregnancy, and can tell you whether prenatal testing might be available. If the cerebral palsy resulted from a complication of pregnancy, your obstetrician could tell you the likelihood that the problem would recur with another pregnancy and develop a plan for closer monitoring during pregnancy to try to prevent the problem.

In making this decision, you'll also want to consider the impact of another child—even a healthy child—on the family. How busy are you already with your daughter's medical care, early intervention program, physical and occupational therapy and speech therapy? Consider how having another child might affect your time for your daughter, your relationship with your partner, your work, your finances and your ability to take care of yourself. Talk with other parents whose children have cerebral palsy about their experiences with having one child or additional children. Take your time to talk through this important decision with your partner, your doctors and even a counselor or therapist.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician