Cerebral palsy and birth injuries

Cerebral palsy is a medical term designating a series of neurological conditions that cause physical disability. The term cerebral refers to the part of the brain that has been affected while palsy designates muscle paralysis.  Although there are different types of CP and the symptoms vary considerably from one patient to another, generally speaking the condition consists in the inability to control certain muscles of the body due to damages occurred in the brain around the time of birth.

The symptoms of the disease are usually not visible immediately after birth. They become obvious later, but by the age of three the majority of affected individuals are diagnosed. The most common signs include:

  • The baby begins to crawl, walk or speak later than normal
  • Has difficulty feeding, sucking and swallowing
  • Has abnormal muscles tone
  • Lays down or crawls in unusual ways
  •  Uses only one side of the body
  • Has hearing or vision problems
  • Has problems with coordination and balance
  • Suffers from seizure or muscle spasm

Depending on these symptoms doctors were able to establish different types of cerebral palsy. The most common ones include:

  • Spastic hemiplegeia: the baby has muscle stiffness on one side of the body. It usually affects just one hand, arm or leg.
  • Spastic diplegia: the lower limbs are affected, the muscles of the legs are tight, making walking difficult
  • Spastic quadriplegia: the legs, arms and body are affected, and the child most likely has mental retardation
  • Ataxic cerebral palsy: the child’s balance is affected, he has difficulties in performing precise movements
  • Dyskinetic cerebral palsy: the hole body is affected by muscle problems, the child will have difficulties in controlling his voice but the intelligence is normal

What causes cerebral palsy?

There are a series of conditions or incidents occurring before, during or immediately after birth that can lead to the development of CP. But no matter what the causes are, the disease occurs when brain cells die because of lack of oxygen. The affected area of the brain will not be able to control the muscles it is responsible for, so the individual will suffer from disabilities.

The most common causes of the condition, which occur before birth, especially in the first six months of pregnancy include:

  • Infections in the mother
  • Low blood pressure of the mother
  • Consumption of illegal drugs or alcohol during pregnancy
  • The fetus suffering from clotting disorder or heart anomaly

Although in the first six months the fetus is especially vulnerable to abnormal brain development, the birth is also a critical stage. If anything goes wrong, and the baby suffers a birth injury, he can develop cerebral palsy. The most common causes of the condition, which occur during birth include:

  • The baby is born prematurely or with a very low body weight
  • Multiple births
  • Breech delivery: the baby is born with his feet first
  • The umbilical cord is twisted around the baby’s neck
  • The second stage of labor was prolonged

In certain cases medical negligence can also be the cause of serious brain injury. For example if a doctor fails to perform a cesarean section when that is obviously needed, like in case the baby remains blocked in the birth canal or he is too large for normal delivery, or if the vacuum extraction is excessively used, the baby’s brain can be affected.

In a minority of cases the brain injury can occur in the first couple of weeks after birth. The newborn can suffer an infection, a head injury or poisoning. In order to cause cerebral palsy these incidents have to occur soon after birth, because later the child’s brain will become more resistant.  

No matter what exactly caused CP, the child will remain affected for the rest of his life, as brain injury is incurable. Even if a series of therapies are available to help these patients live a more normal life, the challenges might be overwhelming both for parents and child. That is why if parents suspect a birth injury could have been the cause of their child’s injury, they should contact a birth injury attorney to see if they qualify for financial compensation.