To understand what causes cerebral palsy, you must first understand what it is. Cerebral palsy is a form of brain damage that affects coordination, movement, speech, hearing, cognitive disabilities and various bodily functions. It is often the result of some type of injury to the brain at birth. Cerebral palsy is second only to autism as a cause of disability in children. Although the incidence varies by geographical region, it affects an estimated 2.9 to 3.8 out of every 10,000 children in the U.S.
So what causes CP? Many cases are preventable and are the result of improper surgical procedures or care during the birthing process. There’s also congenital cerebral palsy, which results from brain injury during a baby’s development in the womb. Some other causes of birth injuries and cerebral palsy include:
– Failure to identify and treat Rh incompatibility
– Failure to identify and treat infection or STD in mother or baby
– Prescribing of inappropriate drugs during pregnancy
– Administering too much Pitocin to induce or stimulate labor
– Failure to monitor mother and/or baby properly
– Failure to deliver a distressed baby by C- section
– Failure to identify insufficient oxygen to a baby
– Improper forceps or vacuum extraction
– Failure to treat severe jaundice
There is also a percentage of children with CP in the U.S. that acquired the disorder after birth. This is the result of brain damage in the first few years of life, often following infections of the brain including bacterial meningitis or viral encephalitis, or it could be the result of a head injury. There are some risk factors that increase the possibility of this happening to your child, as well, including:
– Breech births
– Vascular or respiratory problems in the infant during birth
– Physical birth defects such as faulty spinal bone formation, groin hernias or an abnormally small jaw bone
– Receiving a low Apgar score 20 minutes after delivery. This test is used to make a basic, immediate determination of a newborn’s physical health. A score of 0 would be considered low. A score of 2 would be considered normal.
– A low birth weight (less than 5 lbs. 7 oz.) and premature birth (born less than 37 weeks into pregnancy)
– Being a twin or part of a multiple birth
– Seizures shortly after birth
– Mothers who had bleeding or severe proteinuria (excess protein in the urine) late in their pregnancy
– Failure of the baby to breathe immediately after birth
Keep in mind that not all children who experience the above risk factors develop CP. It is always best to consult a doctor if you notice any developmental challenges in your child as time goes on. Some signs that may indicate that your child will have cerebral palsy include poor muscle tone, blue appearance, difficulty sucking, difficulty maintaining body temperature, meconium staining, and seizures in the first week of life.
If your child demonstrates any of these conditions, or if your doctor orders tests, procedures or treatment other than you would expect in a typical birth situation, you might have a reason for concern that brain damage has occurred. In this case, it is best to consult a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible who will call upon medical specialists to review your and the child’s medical records. It might be necessary to have your child examined by a pediatric neurologist to determine if there is brain damage and if there is, what the extent of it is.
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