Cerebral palsy is caused by an injury, damage or malformation to portions of the brain that control movement. To date, cerebral palsy has no known cure, and will likely require lifelong medical treatments, therapies and support. When it can be proven in a court of law that a child’s cerebral palsy birth injury is caused by negligence, a family can pursue compensation for their child’s future care, medical treatments, assistive devices, and more.
For over 30 years Stern Law, PLLC has represented families in cerebral palsy litigation. Please call (800)462-5772 for free today.
What is cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy (also known as CP) is a general classification of symptoms characterized by an impairment or loss of motor functions and may impact muscle control, coordination, reflexes, posture, and balance. A cerebral palsy birth injury can also affect both fine and gross motor skills.
Regardless of whether the cause is a birth injury or genetics, the result is brain damage that is going to forever alter the life that your child will lead. For your peace of mind and the proper lifetime care of your child, it is important to find out the causes of your child’s condition so that you can receive the Lifetime Benefits to which you might be entitled.
The Causes of Cerebral Palsy
The evolution of the understanding of what causes cerebral palsy continues as medical science reveals greater details. What is known is that cerebral palsy typically develops at the time of birth or shortly thereafter, although in rare instances it can develop later in life.
Cerebral palsy is not curable, so a child with cerebral palsy will grow into an adult with cerebral palsy, but the condition is not degenerative, meaning that it will not become worse as the years progress. Generally, cerebral palsy is not terminal with the exception of babies born with an extremely serious case.
Although there are many things that can lead to a cerebral palsy diagnosis, there are some factors that are more likely to lead to a brain lesion that causes cerebral palsy, including:
- Genetics – The inheritance of genes from each of the baby’s parents has been shown to cause or contribute to cerebral palsy in some of the cases. Research has shown six genes that may contribute to a brain lesion and the development of cerebral palsy. It is the interaction with environmental factors and how this exacerbates the condition that is largely unknown.
- Asphyxia or oxygen deprivation – The disruption of the oxygen supply to the baby during pregnancy, delivery, or immediately after birth has been shown to lead to some cases of cerebral palsy. This can be caused by, among other things:
- Umbilical cord prolapse;
- Hemorrhaging during pregnancy or birth;
- Extended labor and delivery and failure to order a Cesarean section in a timely manner;
- Shoulder dystocia leading to the baby becoming stuck in the birth canal;
- Placental abruption.
- Infection – A baby who has an infection while in utero or is exposed to maternal infections is at greater risk to be born with cerebral palsy. Certain maternal infections are more likely to lead to a child being born with cerebral palsy:
- Rubella or German measles;
- Sexually transmitted diseases;
- Bacterial infection.
- Complications during delivery - A baby who experiences a complex or prolonged delivery may be at greater risk for a cerebral palsy birth injury. A baby born in distress will exhibit a lower Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, and Respiration (Apgar) score, which is a scale between 1 to 10. A score of 0-3 indicates a newborn in critical distress, 4-6 means that there are some problems with the baby, and 7-10 means that the infant is considered normal. The complications that can lead to a low Apgar score and increase the probability of cerebral palsy include:
- Presentation of the baby for delivery other than head first into the birth canal
- An unscheduled emergency Cesarean section (c-section)
- Prolonged delivery
- Placental abruption
- Premature rupture of the membranes
- Blood type or Rh factor incompatibility – During the delivery process, there can be a transfer of blood between the mother and baby. Problems may arise if the mother and baby have different blood types or the mother does not have the Rh factor and the baby does. There can be an auto-immune response where the mother’s blood cells attack those of the infant, leading to jaundice. If the condition is not diagnosed and treated, it can become severe enough to lead to brain damage.
- Traumatic brain injury – During the delivery process, the doctor may have used forceps or a vacuum extractor to assist in the birthing process. Although these are valuable medical tools, they also can lead to severe trauma to the baby’s face, skull, and/or brain, including a very serious compression injury.
- Placenta previa and placenta abruption – If there are problems with the placenta, the baby may not receive the necessary blood, oxygen, and nutrients, leading to the development of cerebral palsy. Placenta abruption is the partial or complete separation of the placenta from the uterine wall. Placenta previa exists where the placenta develops too low in the uterine cavity, leading to partial or complete blockage of the uterus, bleeding, and compression of the developing baby. A Cesarean section may be necessary and the doctor will need to diagnose and treat the condition in a timely manner.
- Premature delivery – A baby who is born before 37 weeks of gestation faces a higher risk of cerebral palsy due to lower birth weight, underdeveloped organs, breathing problems, and increased risk of infection.
- Multiple births – The presence of multiple fetuses leads to a higher risk of cerebral palsy. The prescription of infertility drugs increases the chance of a mother becoming pregnant with more than one baby. Multiple babies have a higher risk of premature delivery, leading to lower birth weight and underdevelopment of organs. A multiple birth carries an increased probability of the following:
- Premature rupture of membranes;
- Prolapsed umbilical cords;
- Abnormal delivery presentation;
- Increased odds of delivery by Cesarean section.
- Maternal health conditions – A baby may be at higher risk of cerebral palsy depending upon:
- Weight and height;
- Reproductive fitness;
- Environmental exposure to toxins and teratogens;
- Socio-economic conditions.
The causes of cerebral palsy are wide-ranging and involve genetics and environmental influences, but the importance of medical professionals cannot be over-stated. Proper diagnosis of health threats and conditions during pregnancy and delivery can be the difference between a beautiful, healthy baby and a lifetime of dealing with the consequences of a cerebral palsy birth injury.
CP is one of the most devastating conditions that results from birth injury. If you suspect that medical malpractice irreparably harmed your child, please call Stern Law, PLLC at (800)462-5772 for free.