What should I do if I think my baby has cerebral palsy?
Healthcare providers may have missed signs or diagnoses, mismanaged a high-risk pregnancy, miscommunicated, failed to take the appropriate precautions, failed to deliver adequate care, or not responded with enough speed or expertise in an emergency to prevent injury. If so, that falls into the category of medical malpractice or medical negligence and you can hold them accountable.
Our legal team regularly handles complicated cases, like cerebral palsy lawsuits. Many children aren’t diagnosed with cerebral palsy for months or years after their original brain injury. Even with modern technology, it can be difficult to trace the cause of cerebral palsy.
We can help you understand the causes of your baby’s injuries and find the experts and specialists to support your claim, as well as determine the future impacts to your family and your baby’s lifetime care and development.
Even if it was unintentional, if a healthcare provider harmed your baby, you may have a right to receive compensation for your medical expenses, follow-on treatment or surgical expenses, adaptive learning, physical and emotional support, and much more. To assess the impact and tell your and your child’s best story, you’ll want the help of a cerebral palsy attorney, someone well-versed in the complexities of birth injuries.
What is cerebral palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a movement disorder caused by brain damage or abnormal brain development that alters the ability for the baby to control its muscles, balance, and posture.
The injury can occur before birth, during delivery, soon after birth, or even later in a child’s early years, while the brain is still growing and developing.
What causes cerebral palsy or how does it occur?
Historically, cerebral palsy was thought to be primarily caused by oxygen deprivation during birth; today, specialists think there are many more causes or contributing factors.
Most frequently, the brain damage occurs during pregnancy, and can be associated with risk factors like low birth weight, multiple births, maternal infections, fetal infections, gene mutations, placental anomalies, blood flow irregularities, and other factors.
However, some cases are caused by a difficult delivery, especially those requiring the use of instruments, an emergency C-section, or where an infection or oxygen deprivation occurs.
What are the signs or symptoms?
Signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy vary widely among different people and change over time and with age. This sometimes makes it difficult for the condition to be recognized and diagnosed directly at birth.
Some common signs in infants include:
- Poor coordination
- Abnormal reflexes
- Stiff, contracted, or weak muscles
- Very floppy or very stiff body posture
- Not rolling over, sitting up, or crawling as early as their peers
As babies with cerebral palsy age, they may also experience problems with:
- Speech and language
- Eating and swallowing
- Physical sensation
- Thinking or reasoning
- Sleep disorders
While symptoms become more obvious with age and development, the underlying causes or condition do not necessarily get worse.
Are there different forms of cerebral palsy?
Congenital cerebral palsy refers to brain damage before birth or during delivery. Acquired cerebral palsy refers to brain damage that occurs more than 28 days after birth. Acquired cerebral palsy is usually associated with an infection, a problem with blood flow to the brain, or a traumatic head injury.
Is the condition treatable?
While partially preventable through immunizations, good health habits, and proper care during pregnancy—as well as attentive and responsive care from healthcare providers during labor and delivery—there is no cure for cerebral palsy.
Physical therapy and speech therapy can help, as well as medications that relax stiff muscles. Surgery may be prescribed for some patients, especially as they age, to disconnect overly active nerves or lengthen tight muscles to improve motion or posture. Adaptive technologies, braces, and wheel chairs can help with mobility and living a fuller daily life. Cerebral palsy patients may also benefit from recreational therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral and emotional therapy, and service animal assistance.
What are the results or long-term impacts of this condition?
Babies with cerebral palsy will become children, and ultimately adults, with cerebral palsy. While the underlying disorder doesn’t worsen over time, symptoms become more pronounced and more debilitating, or disruptive of daily life, as a child ages.
Because cerebral palsy impacts the brain’s motor functions, the child may have limited use of its limbs and difficulty with mobility, speech, and personal care. The disorder will impact their physical capabilities, learning and development, education, and ability to be independent, as well as their family’s financial situation, quality of life, and peace of mind.