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Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy

Of baby showers et al
March 29, 2019

Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy

Recently, I posted a video describing what Down Syndrome is in a certain group on WhatsApp. One of the members asked if this condition was caused by long labor during delivery. She noted that her medic pointed out that this was the cause of Down Syndrome in her child. I gave my opinion that that may be Cerebral Palsy, however, I stood to be corrected.

What is the difference?

Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects the part of the brain known for controlling muscle movement. It will occur in the womb and before birth.  Cerebral Palsy occurs when the part of the brain called cerebrum is damaged.

In the past, lack of oxygen during childbirth was thought to be the cause of cerebral Palsy. However, there are three possible reasons for a child to suffer from this condition:

  1. Abnormal development of the brain that affects how it communicates with the rest if the body muscles.
  2. Bleeding of the fetal brain due to a stroke in the womb. I know, this sounds odd. A stoke? In the womb? Well, yes.  A few factors are known to cause the stroke namely, Pelvic inflammatory infection in the mother, interruption of blood flow to the fetal brain, inflammation of the placenta etc.
  3. Lack of oxygen to the fetal brain because the pregnant mother has an infection or is using illegal drugs. This causes damage the white matter of the brain reducing or interrupting blood flow and hence little or no oxygen gets to the brain of the unborn child.

Down Syndrome on the other hand is a genetic condition that occurs at conception. When the sperm cell fertilizes the ovum and an error occurs during cell division. This error causes extra genetic material altering the development of the fetus. 

A child with Cerebral Palsy will have normal IQ while that of a child with Down Syndrome will be lower.

A child with Cerebral Palsy will have exaggerated reflexes, tightened muscles and low muscle condition. Children with Down Syndrome on the other hand, will have low muscle tone, increased flexibility and broad and short palms.

What are the similarities?

These conditions occur in the womb or near birth. At first I found this statement confusing but it is correct. Down Syndrome occurs in the womb during conception and Cerebral Palsy occurs near birth.

None of these conditions is curable but can be managed with a range of physical, psychological and educational activities.

So, a child with Down Syndrome can have cerebral palsy. After the erroneous cell division, the baby formed has Down Syndrome, right? Yes. Then, damage may occur to the brain of this child causing it to suffer from cerebral palsy.

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