Cerebral palsy is a developmental disorder and leading cause of disability in young children. Cerebral palsy (CP) occurs as a result of a brain injury sustained during fetal development or birth. Because the symptoms affect an infant’s coordination and movement, the injury may not be recognized or diagnosed immediately, especially when the symptoms are mild.
The causes of cerebral palsy can vary depending on the type of CP your child has. Knowing what may have caused your child’s CP can help you understand your child’s condition better, as well as determine how to manage it.
Types of cerebral palsy
Following are the typical types of cerebral palsy, as well as some common causes.
Congenital cerebral palsy. Congenital CP occurs when a baby develops cerebral palsy before or during birth. This is the most common type of cerebral palsy, and can happen for many reasons, including:
- Maternal infections, like measles, toxoplasmosis, or chickenpox
- Problems with the placenta
- Uterine rupture
- Rh factor diseases (incompatible blood types)
- Chorioamnionitis (infection of the membranes and amniotic fluid)
- Premature birth or low birth weight
- Medical negligence
Acquired cerebral palsy. When an infant develops CP at least 28 days or more after birth, it’s known as acquired cerebral palsy. Common reasons for acquired CP include:
- Blood flow problems to the brain, leading to blood clotting or stroke
- Neonatal infections
- Sickle cell disease
- Brain damage
Causes of cerebral palsy
Brain malformations. If a baby’s brain develops abnormally during fetal development – especially prior to 20 weeks gestation – the baby runs a higher risk of brain damage, which can lead to cerebral palsy. Maternal high blood pressure or infections can also lead to abnormal brain development or brain damage while an infant is still in utero. It’s extremely important mothers receive regular prenatal care and medical monitoring while pregnant.
Jaundice. Caused by bilirubin buildup in the blood during the first few days or weeks after birth, some jaundice cases clear up on their own or with some treatment. However, if the bilirubin levels are too high and left untreated, a type of brain damage called kernicterus can occur that can lead to cerebral palsy.
Prolonged labor. Prolonged labor is defined as labor that lasts longer than about 18 hours. Many birth complications can occur from prolonged labor, including cerebral palsy, due to deprivation of oxygen. These can include breech births, the baby getting stuck in the birth canal, complications with the umbilical cord, or medical negligence regarding forceps or delayed C-section.
Hemorrhaging. Bleeding in the brain is a hidden risk amongst premature babies and can result after a problem with blood flow or reduced oxygen to the brain. Because this is a hidden birth injury, however, it may not be until symptoms are visible that a proper diagnosis is possible.
Medical negligence. The true tragedy is when your child’s CP was caused by medical negligence – meaning it could have been prevented. Your doctor’s job is to find and diagnose medical problems during your pregnancy to avoid birth injuries. When these are ignored or misdiagnosed, your infant can suffer brain damage before, during, or after childbirth.
Common medical mistakes that can lead to cerebral palsy include:
- Failure to perform an emergency C-section
- Failure to properly monitor infant’s heartbeat
- Failure to detect or treat maternal infections
- Failure to monitor oxygen levels
- Failure to provide oxygen to infant in time
- Failure to identify or treat umbilical cord or placenta issues
- Improper use of forceps or vacuum extraction tools during childbirth
- Errors in surgery or anesthesia
If your child has suffered a birth injury, you may have lots of questions. Let the attorneys at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP give you answers. Our legal team will work to ensure your child has a comfortable, happy, and full life. We have offices in Edison, Red Bank, or Toms River, New Jersey. Call us today for a consultation at 732-777-0100 or fill out our contact form.