Fifty children with marked neurological abnormality manifested by moderate or severe motor disability and severe mental retardation were compared with a large control population with respect to prospectively ascertained perinatal characteristics. None of 60 prenatal factors distinguished the affected group from controls. In labor and delivery, lowest fetal heart rate in the second stage of labor, arrested progress of labor, and use of midforceps discriminated between the two groups. Neonatal characteristics of children who were later severely handicapped differed from controls, particularly with respect to difficulty in initiating and maintaining respiration, intracranial hemorrhage, neonatal seizures, low birth weight and small head circumference, lowest hemoglobin or hematocrit, and overall neurological status.

Multivariate analysis, including factors from all epochs, indicated that intracranial hemorrhage and neonatal seizures were the strongest independent discriminators between the neurologically impaired children and controls.