If you’re a parent whose newly born child has been diagnosed with congenital cerebral palsy, it’s likely that hundreds of questions are competing for your focus. Along with wondering how this happened, you may be wondering whether your child was a victim of medical malpractice or negligence. You are likely trying to understand how this will affect your child’s future, and what is the best thing you can do for them here and now.
The team of attorneys at Oshman & Mirisola have worked with families just like yours and have provided the following article to help you understand:
- what is congenital cerebral palsy,
- causes of congenital cerebral palsy,
- various forms of treatment for congenital cerebral palsy, and
- what you might be able to expect over the years as you raise your child.
While raising a child with congenital cerebral palsy is not always easy, there is hope as understanding grows about congenital cerebral palsy symptoms and treatments and therapies continue to improve. Information is key to helping your family heal and for making decisions that will help your child thrive.
With the right support and reliable resources, you can look forward to the best possible outcome for your child.
What is Congenital Cerebral Palsy
Cerebral palsy is a developmental disorder that starts in the brain and interferes with nerves. The most common form of this disorder is congenital cerebral palsy, which occurs when a child’s developing brain is damaged during fetal development or during the process of birth.
Judging by the name of the disorder, congenital cerebral palsy sounds like a physical condition that stems from genetic factors or disease. However, it is important to know that in the majority of cases, congenital cerebral palsy does not just “happen.” While genetic abnormalities can affect a fetus’ brain development, the most common cause of congenital cerebral palsy are the result of a birth injury that takes place during pregnancy and prevents the fetus’ brain from developing in a normal, healthy manner.
If your doctor or healthcare practitioner was aware of congenital cerebral palsy risks to your pregnancy and failed to notify you about them or take the right precautions, you may be entitled to financial compensation in return for the permanent harm that their negligence caused to your child.
One way to begin finding answers for whether you and your baby were the victim of medical negligence is to contact an attorney. A lawyer who has experience in cases of birth injury leading to cerebral palsy will know the right questions to ask about your situation that will give you greater clarity and may help you decide what next steps to take.
Causes of Congenital Cerebral Palsy
The Academy of Pediatrics states that only about 25% of fetal brain damage cases offer conclusive evidence about the root cause. This can be very difficult news to process when you are a new parent.
The most common cause of congenital cerebral palsy is deprivation of oxygen to the baby’s brain. Some contributing circumstances which may occur during fetal development are the following: a ruptured uterus, a detached placenta, or umbilical cord wrapped around the baby.
In some cases, the damage to the baby’s brain is not during its gestation, but during the actual delivery. In fact, a baby is most at risk of brain damage during the birthing process, especially when the baby is premature. Problems that can arise during delivery include the baby having blocked airways or getting stuck in the birth canal.
Finally, it is possible for a doctor’s negligence or irresponsibility to cause brain damage that results in congenital cerebral palsy. Negligence may take place during the pregnancy or the birthing process, and may include:
- Not monitoring/incorrectly assessing the fetal heartbeat during and after delivery
- Failing to provide a timely C-section
- Improper use of birth-assisting tools
- Too much/too little haste in the delivery
- Using excessive pulling during delivery
- Calling for extended periods of pushing during delivery
- Failing to supply oxygen in a timely manner to an asphyxiated infant
- Failing to monitor respiratory and oxygen treatments
When testing for congenital cerebral palsy, a specialist will usually review the medical histories of both parents, find out about the child’s prenatal history, and ask about any complications that might have taken place during labor and delivery.
The key to diagnosis is careful monitoring of the child’s development while it is in the womb. During pregnancy, the child’s mother must be monitored on a frequent basis for the following risk factors:
- High blood pressure (in both mother and fetus)
- Maternal infection or contagious diseases (such as chicken pox or rubella) during pregnancy
- Incompatibility between the fetus’ blood type and the mother’s blood type (known as Rh incompatibility)
- Obstructed blood flow or bleeding in the infant’s brain
- Inflammatory pelvic disease in the mother
- Heavy concentration of toxins in the mother
- Infertility treatments
- Infant jaundice
- Fetal infection
- Fetal stroke
- Intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain)
- Blood clots in the infant
- Dropped glucose levels
- Twins or multiple births
- Low birth weight
Diagnosing Congenital Cerebral Palsy
It is not a simple matter to diagnose cerebral palsy. Diagnosis requires a series of complex steps, including brain scans, evaluations with a specialist, and tests meant to rule out other possible causes of cerebral palsy symptoms.
Because congenital cerebral palsy specifically affects the part of the brain that controls motor skills, it is not possible to definitely diagnose congenital cerebral palsy until the baby is showing signs of not meeting certain gross motor skills milestones. Within the first few months of life, the telling symptoms of congenital cerebral palsy (listed below) may not be apparent.
As a result, the majority of children are diagnosed with congenital cerebral palsy between the ages of 1 and 2 years old. Some milder cases may not be diagnosed until the ages of 4 or 5.
Like many other health conditions, an early awareness of the symptoms makes it more likely that early intervention can mitigate some of the long-term effects of congenital cerebral palsy. However, early attempts at diagnosis can also result in a misdiagnosis.
Every case of congenital cerebral palsy is unique. Several symptoms from the following list may present themselves at different levels of intensity, while other symptoms may not be present at all.
Congenital cerebral palsy symptoms may include some but not all of the following:
- Stiff muscles
- Overly relaxed, “floppy” muscles
- Writhing, involuntary movements
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty understanding language
- Difficulty swallowing
- Mental retardation
Once a child has been diagnosed with congenital cerebral palsy, bringing its own unique set of concerns and severity of symptoms. As a result, it will take time to determine the best approach to treat congenital cerebral palsy in your child.
Speak with a Birth Injury Attorney
While your child will face unique challenges as they grow, they have the opportunity to live a happy, positive life. There are a vast number of therapies and treatment modalities, with further advancements every day, that help people with cerebral palsy strengthen their ability to function physically, mentally and socially. But accessing the best possible treatment for your child will require a significant investment of time and money.
If your child’s congenital cerebral palsy was caused by medical negligence, you deserve to receive financial compensation from the people responsible. In order to get the support your child needs to thrive, your best course of action is to contact an experienced birth injury attorney. A good attorney will help you hold those parties accountable and fight for the financial damages you deserve.
In the weeks and months after your child has received a diagnosis of congenital cerebral palsy, nothing is more natural than wanting to focus on your child’s needs and help your family heal. Receiving financial compensation can make all the difference in accomplishing those goals over the long-term. Call the law firm of Oshman & Mirisola to speak to our attorneys now about the details of your case. Your call is confidential, with no cost or obligation to you. Our firm has successfully handled many cases involving congenital cerebral palsy, and we are ready to fight on your behalf for the future of your child.