Cerebral Palsy & Childbirth Injury
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How Do You Know If Your Baby Has Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral Palsy, also referred to as “CP” can show early indications in the first few months of a baby’s life.
However, it is common for cerebral palsy to go undiagnosed during infancy and for the signs to develop beyond the first 2 years.
It is important for parents to understand what the early signs of cerebral palsy are.
Cerebral palsy is a complex disability which is not always easy to diagnose.
Parents may suspect their child has cerebral palsy if their baby has:
- Slow development of motor skills
- Tight or floppy muscle tone
- Displays unusual postures
Children that are affected by cerebral palsy will often times have trouble swallowing while the most common indication is a muscle imbalance with the eyes.
Signs and Symptoms
It is important to note that these may vary greatly but some of the early indications to look for are:
- Low muscle tone (baby feels ‘floppy’ when picked up)
- Unable to hold up his/her own head while lying on their stomach or in a supported sitting position
- Muscle spasms or feeling stiff
- Poor muscle control, reflexes and posture
- Delayed development (can’t sit up or independently roll over by 6 months)
- Feeding or swallowing difficulties
- Prefers to use one side of their body
- Delays in speech development or difficulty speaking
- Learning difficulties
- Difficulty with fine motor skills, such as buttoning clothes or picking up utensils
Cerebral palsy might affect the entire body, or it could be limited to one limb or even one side of the body.
The brain disorder causing cerebral palsy doesn’t change with time, so the symptoms usually don’t worsen with age.
Cerebral palsy is caused by an abnormality or disruption in brain development, most often before a child is born.
Factors that can lead to problems with brain development include:
- Gene mutations that lead to abnormal development
- Maternal infections that affect the developing fetus
- Fetal stroke, a disruption of blood supply to the developing brain
- Bleeding into the brain in the womb or as a newborn
- Infant infections that cause inflammation in or around the brain
- Traumatic head injury to an infant from a motor vehicle accident or fall
- Lack of oxygen to the brain related to difficult labor or delivery, although birth-related asphyxia is much less commonly a cause than historically thought
In many cases, the cause is unknown, but medical negligence has been linked to many cerebral palsy diagnoses.
Birth Injuries and/or Conditions Related to Cerebral Palsy
- Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE):
HIE is a dangerous neonatal brain injury that occurs when the baby’s brain is deprived of oxygenated blood at or near the time of delivery (i.e. experiences birth asphyxia).
HIE and other types of brain injuries caused by oxygen deprivation can occur when a baby is not receiving enough oxygen in the womb and the physician fails to quickly deliver the baby by emergency C-section (1).
Conditions that can cause oxygen deprivation in the
womb include uterine rupture, placental abruption, placenta previa, umbilical cord problems, preeclampsia, and others.
HIE can also be caused by medical professionals’ failure to identify fetal heart rate problems. To prevent fetal oxygen deprivation and HIE, a baby’s heart rate should be continuously monitored during labor and delivery.
Nonreassuring fetal heart tracings are an indication of fetal distress, and fetal distress almost always means the baby is oxygen-deprived.
When this occurs, the baby must be delivered right away, usually by emergency C-section.
- Intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD):
I/DDs are disabilities
characterized by profound limitations in cognitive function and adaptive behavior.
Brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation, trauma, infection, and brain toxins can cause intellectual and developmental disabilities.
- Traumatic birth injuries:
This is a subcategory of birth injury caused by excessive mechanical force during delivery.
The risk of traumatic brain injury increases when:
- The baby is large (macrosomia)
- The baby is too large for the size of the mother’s pelvis (cephalopelvic
- The baby is in an abnormal position (such as breech or face presentation)
- The baby has neurological frailty which is not handled properly by medical professionals
- The doctor employs the use of forceps or vacuum extractors
- The doctor employs the use of labor induction drugs, such as Pitocin or Cytotec
- Intracranial hemorrhages (brain bleeds):
Trauma to the head during delivery can cause several different types of bleeds in the brain, which can, among other things, deprive the baby’s brain of oxygen-rich blood and cause brain damage.
- Delaying or failing to order a C-section:
When a vaginal delivery is dangerous (because of a baby’s size, position, breathing, umbilical cord position, etc.), a C-section must be administered immediately.
Delaying delivery when other dangerous maternal or fetal conditions are present can cause birth injury.
- Seizure disorders/epilepsy
Can be caused by birth injuries such as HIE, birth trauma, or infection.
- Birth asphyxia
Occurs when a baby doesn’t receive enough oxygen before, during or just after birth.
There are many reasons that birth asphyxia may occur.
Some of the causes of decreased oxygen before or during the birth process may include:
- Inadequate oxygen levels in the mother’s blood due to heart or
respiratory problems or lowered respirations caused by anesthesia
- Low blood pressure in the mother
- Inadequate relaxation of the uterus during labor that prevents oxygen circulation to the placenta
- Early separation of the placenta from the uterus, called placental abruption
- Compression of the umbilical cord that decreases blood flow
Poor placenta function that may occur with high blood pressure or in post-term pregnancies, particularly those past 42 weeks
What To Do If Your Child Has Cerebral Palsy
If you suspect your baby may have cerebral palsy or if your baby has been diagnosed with CP it is imperative you have a free consultation with an attorney to make sure medical negligence is not the cause.
It is also a good idea to talk to your doctor.
If you or your baby experienced an injury during childbirth then get a birth injury attorney to protect the rights of your family.
The average settlement associated with a birth injury can range between $400,00 to $1 million, conservatively.
Links To Helpful Information About Cerebral Palsy & Birth Injures
Birth Injury Help Center
Cerebral Palsy—Trends in Epidemiology and Recent Development in Prenatal
Mechanisms of Disease, Treatment, and Prevention
Prevalence of Cerebral Palsy and Intellectual Disability Among Children Identified in Two U.S. National Surveys, 2011-2013
Birth Prevalence of Cerebral Palsy: A Population-Based Study
Cerebral Palsy: Causes, Pathways, and the Role of Genetic Variants