Help prevent cerebral palsy before and during your pregnancy

Doing all you can to have a healthy pregnancy can help reduce the risk of a brain injury occurring in a developing fetus. Brain injuries occurring during fetal development can lead to cerebral palsy. Prepare for a healthy pregnancy in these ways:

  • Do not smoke. Women who do not smoke during pregnancy have healthier babies.
  • Do not drink alcohol or take illegal drugs. Drinking alcohol and taking illegal drugs during pregnancy may cause many different birth defects.
  • Take precautions if you have any long-term illnesses (such as diabetes or problems with your thyroid) or take prescription medications. Talk with your health professional about what you need to do for a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
  • Get enough folic acid . Women who are planning to become pregnant or who already are pregnant should take daily vitamin supplements containing 400 micrograms (mcg) folic acid.
  • Make sure you are immune to German measles (rubella). Having rubella during pregnancy can cause a variety of serious birth defects. If you have had rubella or have been vaccinated against it, you are protected from becoming infected. If you have not had rubella or had the vaccination, make sure you are immunized at least 4 weeks before trying to become pregnant. If you don't know whether you are immune to rubella, you can be tested to see whether you need the vaccine.

In addition, during pregnancy:

  • Get treatment for all infections. If you develop signs of an infection during pregnancy, such as fever or unusual vaginal discharge, call your health professional.
  • Avoid people who are sick. Be especially careful around those with illnesses such as rubella that increase a fetus's risk of developing cerebral palsy when the mother is infected during pregnancy.
  • Avoid exposure to harmful substances, such as radiation.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Most health professionals suggest taking vitamin supplements that contain all the needed vitamins and minerals (including folic acid) during pregnancy.
  • If needed, take Rh immune globulin (such as BayRhoD, Gamulin Rh, or RhoGAM) after giving birth to your first child. A simple blood test can detect differences in blood (Rh factor) between you and your fetus while you are pregnant. Taking immune globulin after you deliver your first baby with a different Rh factor can prevent problems from developing during future pregnancies.

Last Updated: October 14, 2008

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