Having a baby is a life-changing event. This is especially the case if you are told that your child has a birth injury known as cerebral palsy. The doctor may or may not have tried to explain this type of birth injury to you, but more than likely you will want to know how something like this could have happened and how it will affect your child.
What Is Cerebral Palsy?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Cerebral palsy (CP) is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture.” Unfortunately, CP affects 1 in 323 children in this nation, and it is the most common motor disability in childhood.
Cerebral palsy affects overall movement, which is why a child with cerebral palsy will often suffer from impaired muscle coordination and control, poor muscle tone and posture, spasticity, stiff limbs, trouble balancing, and limited range of motion. This condition can also affect a child’s gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and oral motor skills, which can be very serious and affect everything from walking to talking.
The extent of the impairment will vary from child to child based on the length of oxygen deprivation and the location of the brain injury. While one child’s physical impairment may manifest itself in one limb, another child with cerebral palsy may suffer impairments in all of the extremities. Consequently, one child may need very little assistance and the other child may suffer total paralysis and require round-the-clock care.
Causes of Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage due to an abnormal development of the brain or as a result of a brain injury that occurred during childbirth. It is important to note that this type of birth injury can occur before birth, during labor and delivery, or immediately after birth. Some of the ways in which cerebral palsy can occur can include:
- Lack of oxygen during birth. If a baby is left in the birth canal too long or an obstetrician waits too long to perform a caesarean section, the baby may suffer a lack of oxygen (also known as birth asphyxia). Also, if the umbilical cord gets wrapped around the infant’s neck and the doctor doesn’t react quickly, the infant can start suffocating. Any time a baby suffers oxygen deprivation, it can cause brain damage and contribute to cerebral palsy.
- Head trauma during delivery. A baby can suffer trauma to the head if an obstetrician applies excessive pressure on the newborn’s head during delivery. Typically, an infant will suffer head trauma if a doctor misuses a birth-assisting tool. For example, if a physician applied too much force while using the forceps or failed to use the vacuum extractor correctly, the baby may suffer head trauma and cerebral palsy.
- Poor maternal care. During pregnancy, an expectant mother goes to regular doctor’s appointments for screenings and to confirm the baby is growing normally. If a doctor fails to detect the mother has an infection such as rubella and fails to treat the mother and baby, the fetus may suffer brain damage that results in cerebral palsy. This can even be the case if a urinary tract infection in a pregnant woman isn’t treated in a timely manner.
Effects of Cerebral Palsy
Generally, cerebral palsy isn’t detected for quite some time after birth. In fact, most children aren’t diagnosed with this type of condition until two to three years old, according to American Pregnancy Association. This is because the symptoms will become noticeable as the child grows and begins missing developmental milestones. However, in severe cases of cerebral palsy, a diagnosis may be made immediately after birth. In either event, a child with cerebral palsy may suffer the following effects:
- Hearing difficulties
- Vision problems
- Speech impediments
- Swallowing and eating problems
- Breathing troubles
- Muscle deformities and spasticity
- Coordination and balance issues
- Bladder and bowel control difficulties
- Neurological disorders
- Learning disabilities
- Behavioral problems
- Overall movement issues
Because cerebral palsy is permanent and causes life-long complications for the injured child and a world of changes for a family, it is essential that a family obtain as much compensation as possible in order to get the injured child the best care. If you believe your son or daughter suffered cerebral palsy or any type of birth brain injury due to a doctor’s negligence, please call us today to speak with a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney. Call us for a complimentary consultation today at (703) 591-0067.