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Common Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Posted on March 1, 2012

Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders traceable to a number of different causes. To determine the specific cause of cerebral palsy in an individual child, doctors must consider the prenatal history, the circumstances surrounding the labor and delivery, the specific symptoms experienced by the child, and the onset of the disorder. Common causes include intrauterine infection, perinatal infection, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and some genetic abnormalities.

While many cases of cerebral palsy are caused by incidents during pregnancy or birth or the immediate neonatal period after delivery, a smaller percentage of cases are acquired remote from birth.

Birth injury

A birth injury can result from a prolonged labor augmented with Pitocin if your doctor did not properly monitor your labor to insure that delivery occurred promptly after there were signs of fetal distress. Additionally, if your baby got stuck in the birth canal (dystocia) due to size or position, and if the proper steps were not taken not to resolve it, the baby can suffer nerve damage during the delivery. This nerve damage may heal over time but in some instances can be permanent and is called Erbs Palsy. In addition, without proper monitoring, if a dystocia occurs the baby is at risk for other injuries and the lack of oxygen could have led to brain injury.

In addition, when a dystocia occurs a baby can experience a stroke both inside and outside of the womb due to a reduced flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. A stroke can also result from health complications stemming from the mother, such as a blood clotting disorder, unmanaged hypertension (high blood pressure), placental inflammation, umbilical cord abnormalities, and pelvic inflammatory infections. Insufficient oxygen delivery to the baby during birth can also stem from low maternal blood pressure, a ruptured uterus, a detached placenta, and umbilical cord complications.

Maternal infection

Infection and an accompanying fever, sometimes experienced by a mother during pregnancy, can pose a serious medical risk to the fetus by affecting the oxygen and nutrients delivered to the placenta. This can potentially result in brain damage to the fetus if left untreated. Other infections such as H.I.V. and the herpes virus can be devastating if passed to a newborn but are treatable and manageable if they are timely diagnosed and treated. Pregnant women should be screened for these potentially life altering disorders.

Blood type

If a mother and her fetus have opposite blood types, the mother may begin to produce antibodies that attack the blood cells of her fetus. If this blood incompatibility is not detected, the baby can be injured. Blood type compatibility is routinely checked and easily detected with a simple blood test. Medication is available to manage blood type incompatibility and to prevent it from leading to injury.

Premature delivery

A premature delivery can result in the development of cerebral palsy if the lungs of the fetus have not developed fully enough before birth and the oxygen supply to the brain becomes interrupted. Maternal conditions leading to premature delivery can include bacterial vaginosis, an incompetent cervix, an abnormal uterus, high blood pressure, a clotting disorder, and diabetes. If the doctors expect a premature delivery, there are steps that can be taken to prolong the pregnancy and protect the fetus from some of the complications of premature delivery, including the use of steroids called Betamethasone.

Contact us for help

If your baby has cerebral palsy, you should know that cerebral palsy is a primary focus of the birth injury attorneys at Duffy + Partners law firm. Our Philadelphia birth injury lawyers can help you determine whether the condition of your child was the result of medical malpractice—and, if so, help you to recover damages from those responsible for such negligence.