Fetal Brain Damage: What Causes It?

Fetal brain damage is one of the things that an expectant parent most fears, because it can mean one of several terrifying consequences ranging from cerebral palsy, damaged brain and nerve tissues, reduced motor functions to delayed development.

There may be prenatal factors as well as factors present during the birthing process that cause fetal brain damage:

  • There are certain maternal infections that can cause fetal brain damage and which any expectant mother has to vigilantly guard against: Rubella or German measles, if contracted by the mother in the first half of her gestation can be very serious, possibly causing fetal brain damage or a range of incurable illnesses. Herpes infections, toxoplasmosis, and cytomegalovirus can also result in fetal brain damage.Fetal Brain Damage
  • Damage to the placenta, which is the source of nutrition to the fetus can cause oxygen deprivation in the developing fetus and hence brain damage. Other kinds of placental abnormalities such as insufficiency, premature ageing and separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus could also cause damage.
  • Severe malnutrition or a serious eating disorder of the mother during pregnancy may result in the fetus receiving incomplete nutrition and consequently fetal brain damage.
  • In some cases preeclampsia (gestational high blood pressure) could also be the cause of fetal brain damage.
  • It is well known that alcohol consumption and drug use during pregnancy can be extremely detrimental to the fetus. Depending upon the area of the brain that was developing when the alcohol or other substance was consumed, fetal brain damage will be sustained.
  • Iodine deficiency is another possible cause for fetal brain damage
  • During the birthing process if the umbilical cord is entwined about the infant’s neck it can cut off oxygen supply to the baby, thereby causing fetal brain damage. Any other cause of such interruption in supply of oxygen could cause damage.
  • Severely premature babies could also sustain fetal brain damage, or at any rate are far more likely to sustain such damage.

Most of the fetal brain damage that takes place happens prenatally, when the fetus is in the process of development inside the mother’s womb.

There are far fewer cases of such damage being sustained during birth or after it. So it is important to do all that is possible to prevent such brain damage to the fetus when pregnant and hence all possible precautions are important to take.


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