Cerebral palsy is an irreversible condition that occurs when a child’s brain is injured during pregnancy, birth or while the child is still very young. It is characterized by involuntary movements and lack of muscle control. Not all brain injuries will result in cerebral palsy, but there are many different causes to be aware of as most are preventable. With thorough prenatal care and an adept physician in the delivery room, the chance of a baby being born with cerebral palsy is very low.
The majority of brain injuries that cause cerebral palsy occur during pregnancy. So it would make sense to be conscious of and informed about these causes when selecting an obstetrician or when discussing your pregnancy with your primary doctor. There are some infections during pregnancy which are known to cause infant brain damage in various instances. These include herpes simplex, rubella, toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, and group b strep that has been left untreated.
There are also certain medical conditions that a pregnant woman can have or develop that can cause this type of injury including diabetes, high blood pressure, preeclampsia, toxaemia, thyroid issues and a blood incompatibility between the mother and baby. Blood incompatibility can lead to jaundice which produces compounds that can cause brain injury. In addition, problems with the placenta, such as premature separation or aging, can cause brain injury. If a woman’s due date is miscalculated and a baby is born too early or late, there is increased chance of cerebral palsy.
During childbirth, different complications can arise and, if not dealt with quickly, can result in brain damage to the child. Anything that reduces blood flow or oxygen to the baby causes risk, including the umbilical cord becoming twisted or compressed. Also, women in labor are often given a drug called Pitocin to increase contractions, but when too much is given contractions can become too intense (referred to as uterine tachysystole) and cut off blood supply to the fetus. Careful monitoring is imperative when Pitocin is given.
Low amniotic fluid is also a threat, as is the baby getting stuck in the birth canal due to improper position or too large a head. It is the physician’s responsibility to know when a cesarean section is required to prevent harm to the child and/or mother. Additionally, if a vacuum or forceps are incorrectly used during a vaginal delivery, head trauma can result and lead to cerebral palsy.
As you can see, most issues that lead to cerebral palsy are avoidable. With a knowledgeable and conscientious physician involved during pregnancy and delivery the risks for brain damage are greatly reduced. However, sometimes oversights or mistakes do occur. If you have a child affected with cerebral palsy that you believe is the result of a doctor error, please complete our free evaluation form. Our Dallas birth injury attorneys are experienced in dealing with these types of cases and will respond with valuable information about your options.