Can smoking cause cerebral palsy? 

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Cerebral palsy is the term given to a set of developmental brain disorders that can occur in newborns, infants, and very young children. 

It is not progressive, meaning that it does not get worse with time, and unfortunately does not get better either. 

Once a newborn or young child develops cerebral palsy, the condition and its symptoms will remain for life.

Cerebral palsy isn’t actually a disease, but rather a general term used to describe any brain malformation in a newborn or young child that leads to loss of motor ability. 

The name cerebral palsy translates literally to ‘brain muscle weakness’, and got its name due to the fact that it is characterized by reduced control of skeletal muscles due to the brain damage sustained.  The most severe forms of the condition may involve frequent seizures, inability to walk, and paralysis. 

It isn’t well understood what causes cerebral palsy, though it is clear that it most commonly occurs in children born prematurely, who are underweight, and especially those with damaged, malformed or underdeveloped hearts, spines, kidneys and or livers.  Problems with these organs contribute to the likelihood of a brain malformation of the kind associated with cerebral palsy. 

It was once thought that asphyxia was the primary agent behind the condition, but it is now believed to be the cause of only around 10 percent of the cases.

Mothers who smoke, drink, or use illicit drugs during pregnancy increase the risk that their child will develop cerebral palsy. 

Infections that occur in the mother during pregnancy, even mild and hard to detect ones, have also been shown to increase the chances of the condition occurring.  It is also much more likely to afflict twins, or multiple births.  Traumas during pregnancy or childbirth may induce a malformation in the child’s brain as well.  However, the condition can develop in children that were otherwise entirely normal and healthy at birth. 

Overall, the condition develops in around 0.2 percent of all live births.  The condition develops within the first 30 days of postnatal life in over 80 percent of the cases, however it has developed in kids as old as five years.

Although there is no cure for cerebral palsy, the motor difficulties an afflicted child suffers from can sometimes be treated effectively, or at least managed.  Without treatment, problems with posture or gait will often get worse as the child gets older.