Cerebral Palsy and Reproductive Health

Cerebral Palsy is a condition that is surrounded by many misconceptions and myths. There is a lack of awareness and people need to be educated in the right direction. One of the most common topics of concern and misinformation relates to reproductive health. People usually assume persons affected with Cerebral Palsy to be asexual and have their own theories about fertility and the genetic effects of Cerebral Palsy. We have started this series with the aim to dispel myths about reproductive health and some common causes of physical disabilities. We have already covered polio and muscular dystrophy. In this write-up, we are discussing Cerebral Palsy and its impact on a person’s reproductive health and genetics.

Can Cerebral Palsy be Transferred Genetically?

Cerebral Palsy is not a hereditary condition. A woman, as well as a man with Cerebral Palsy, can have children without Cerebral Palsy. Individuals with Cerebral Palsy do not pass down the condition or its symptoms to their children.

You might know that Cerebral Palsy is caused due to abnormal development of the brain or damage caused to the developing brain before, during, or shortly after birth. In a few cases CP can be caused by a combination of a few genetic mutations but this does not mean that the mutation can be passed genetically. Parents with cerebral palsy have the same chances of having a baby with the condition as someone without the condition. However, a number of researches carried out over the years have concluded that children born after In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) or Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) have a higher risk of Cerebral Palsy. These children are twice likely to have Cerebral Palsy as compared to those who are naturally conceived.

Does Cerebral Palsy Affect a Person’s Ability to Get Physically Intimate?

Cerebral Palsy is a group of conditions manifesting itself differently in different individuals. Thus there cannot be a one-size-fits-all type answer when it comes to the physical abilities of persons with Cerebral Palsy. While some CP affected individuals may have no issues in getting physically intimate some might need a few adaptations and external help.

This is an issue that should be directly discussed among partners. When partners discuss issues like this they get a chance to understand each other’s physical limitations well and may find a way to adapt to the disability. This will be helpful in developing a fulfilling relationship.

Does Cerebral Palsy Affect a Person’s Fertility?

There’s no scientific evidence suggesting infertility in persons with Cerebral Palsy. This means that people with Cerebral Palsy are fertile and potent and can have their biological babies. Cerebral Palsy manifests itself with several symptoms and these symptoms do not include infertility. In fact, the incidence of miscarriage, malformation of the baby, or stillbirth among women with Cerebral Palsy is no higher than in the general population.

It is evident that Cerebral Palsy does not affect a person’s fertility however the associated motor impairment can make the pregnancy more challenging.

Planning Pregnancy for Parents with Cerebral Palsy

It is advisable for any couple to plan their pregnancy but this planning is even more important for individuals with disorders and disabilities. Anyone with a disabling condition like Cerebral Palsy must plan their pregnancy well in advance else the journey of becoming parents may become frustrating. Bearing and delivering a child is not an easy task and it comes with extra challenges for women with conditions like Cerebral Palsy. Here are a few tips that one must bear in mind while planning a pregnancy.

Conceiving and Carrying the Pregnancy

  • Consult an obstetrician before getting pregnant – Most individuals with Cerebral Palsy rely on certain medications for spasticity and other issues. These medications may have an adverse impact on the fetus. So, it is important to consult a doctor and take advice. You might need to stop your medications for a certain period and replace it with some other medicine or management technique.
  • Avoid alcohol, smoking and any such intoxicants – Avoiding intoxicants like alcohol and smoking is a general guideline for any woman planning to have a baby. A woman with Cerebral Palsy must follow this guideline and try to be as physically fit as they can be for ensuring a healthy pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Stay in touch with a physical therapist – While a few women experience a reduction in their symptoms of Cerebral Palsy during their pregnancy, many struggles with aggravated symptoms. Many women reports aggravated symptoms of spasm and increased loss of balance. Mobility issues too get worsened during pregnancy due to the big belly. A physical therapist can be very helpful in making the journey of bearing a child more manageable and relatively easy.

During and After the Child’s Birth

As discussed earlier, women with cerebral palsy generally have a normal pregnancy and childbirth. But, this can take a toll on her body. The following things must be kept in mind while planning a pregnancy.

  • There is an increased chance of C-section – Spasm is one of the most common symptoms of Cerebral Palsy which typically increases during childbirth. So, epidural anesthesia may not be the best option for delivering the child. In some woman with Cerebral Palsy, the spasm increases so much that normal delivery goes out of the picture and C-sections becomes the only option.
  • Postpartum depression may hit hard – Postpartum depression i.e. the symptoms of depression that occur after childbirth, affects many women. Experts suggest that women affected with conditions like Cerebral Palsy are at higher risk of developing the symptoms of postpartum depression and may require extra care.
  • The phase of recovery may be longer – A woman’s body undergoes tremendous changes during pregnancy and childbirth and they require some time to recover from all those changes. This recovery period is generally longer for women with Cerebral Palsy as they may experience aggravated symptoms of CP. Thus she will require extra bouts of rest and care to get back to her normal body condition after bearing the child.

Conclusion

Cerebral Palsy does not affect a person’s fertility or the ability to bear a child though the disability caused due to CP may bring additional challenges. Any couple with Cerebral Palsy can plan and have biological children if they are equipped with the right knowledge and support system. The condition is not genetically transferred to their offspring.

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