Cerebral palsy (CP) is a common disorder for infants in the United States. It is estimated to affect around 500,000 people. It is an intricate disorder that has a myriad of symptoms and causes. In some cases, cerebral palsy can occur due to injuries at birth. Therefore, it is important that parents are not only aware of their child’s specific risk factors, but also the general symptoms and causes.
What is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy is a disorder that impacts a person’s brain and affects motor skills. It is a direct injury or dysfunction of the cerebral region of the brain, which leads to a particular area of the brain becoming paralyzed – hence, the palsy. Brain damage that leads to cerebral palsy will typically occur before, during, or after the child’s birth. It is often a lifetime disability that the child (and parents) must endure.
Congenital Cerebral Palsy
This refers to brain damage that happens before or during a child’s birth. The majority of cerebral palsy sufferers in the United States – or about 85 to 90 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – occurs in congenital form. Often the cause is unknown, but the CDC has identified several risk factors that may increase the likelihood that a child will develop congenital CP. These risk factors include:
- Low birthweight. Children who weigh under five and a half pounds at birth, especially those weighing less than three pounds and five ounces, have an increased risk for developing CP.
- Premature birth. Children who are born prematurely (which is any time prior to the 37th week of gestation) – and especially those born prior to the 32nd week – have a greater chance of being born with CP. The intensive care that a premature infant receives can reduce the risk for CP, but it is not infallible.
- Multiple births. While the CDC cannot explain it, children of multiple births (e.g., twins) are more likely to have CP than singleton births. This may be due to the fact that multiple births are at an increased risk for premature delivery and low birth weights, anyway.
- Assisted reproductive infertility treatments. Women who have pregnancies resulting from the use of infertility treatments may have children who are at higher risk for CP. This is because women with infertility pregnancies are often at-risk for premature delivery or multiple births.
- Infections during the pregnancy. Infections can lead to proteins known as cytokines, which circulate in the brain and blood of the developing fetus. Cytokines can lead to inflammation, which may lead to brain damage in the infant. Fever in a mother during pregnancy can also lead to this condition. Some infections, such as rubella or chickenpox during pregnancy, may also lead to CP in infants.
- Jaundice. Jaundice is a condition that leads to yellow coloration in the infant’s skin; it is not diagnosed until birth, or a few days afterward. Jaundice occurs when a chemical – known as bilirubin – builds up in the baby’s blood. When too much bilirubin is present, the baby may develop kernicterus, which can lead to CP, as well as other chronic, lifelong conditions.
- Complications during delivery. During delivery, a fetus may suffer from a disruption in oxygen – such as a uterine rupture, umbilical cord tangle, or placental detachment. All of these conditions can increase an infant’s risk of CP.
Was Your Child Injured During Birth?
If your child was injured during birth or during your pregnancy, due to a physician’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Birth injuries are serious; physicians who oversee a child’s development, as well as delivery, are required to provide a higher standard of care. More specifically, they are required to ensure that a child is born as healthy as possible. If your child was diagnosed with CP, due to improper prenatal care or delivery errors, contact Schwartzapfel® Lawyers, P.C. for a free consultation at 1-516-342-2200 or fill out our online contact form with your questions.