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Babies Born Late May Face Small Cerebral Palsy Risk
Date:8/31/2010

t at 42 weeks and later, the risk for cerebral palsy increased to 40 percent, the researchers found.

These associations were strongest among infants with the gestational ages of 37 weeks and 42 weeks. Adjusting for sex, the mother's age and socioeconomic factors had little effect on these associations, the researchers note.

However, the biological mechanisms that underlie this association are unclear, Moster said.

"One possible explanation may be that the neonatal brain is especially vulnerable the more the baby is born away from a gestational age of 40 weeks," he said.

An alternative explanation may be that fetuses prone to develop cerebral palsy have a disturbance in timing of birth, making them more prone to be delivered either early or late, Moster added.

Dr. Diane Ashton, deputy medical director of the March of Dimes, said that "these findings are consistent with what we know about term gestation."

"Thirty-nine to 40 weeks tends to be the optimum time for delivery," she said. (The Norwegian researchers said the data suggested that "39-41 weeks [was the] optimum time for delivery.")

Ashton noted that more research needs to be done in the problems associated with late-term birth.

For cerebral palsy, in many cases, these children are born with smaller heads and at lower birth weights than normal infants, Ashton said.

"There may be some insult that occurs earlier during the pregnancy and, probably, whatever that insult is disrupts the timing for birth and that might be one reason why you see cerebral palsy occurring according to gestational age," she said.

But if this isn't the case, then the problems occur at delivery and so 40 weeks is the optimal time to deliver to avoid the risk of cerebral palsy, Ashton added.

More information

For more information on cerebral palsy, visit the U.S. National I
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