Cerebral palsy results from damage to the area of the brain that governs movement. Most often, the damage occurs during fetal development and the child is born with congenital cerebral palsy.
Researchers have determined there are four kinds of brain damage that cause cerebral palsy in the developing fetal and newborn brain.
- Damage to the white matter of the brain, an area that controls the transmission of signals both in the brain and to the body
- Genetic mutations in the developing brain
- Bleeding or hemorrhage in the fetus' brain
- Lack of adequate oxygen in the fetal or newborn brain
Cerebral Palsy Brain Injury
Sometimes the brain injury that causes cerebral palsy is preventable. This includes insults to the brain that occur around the time of labor and delivery, such as:
- Excessive stress during labor and delivery can deprive the newborn's brain of oxygen for too long; this might happen when there are problems with the umbilical cord that prevent it from carrying oxygen to the newborn
- A forceps delivery that is not done properly could injure the newborn's brain
Injury to a child's brain may also occur from:
- An automobile accident in which the child isn't in a car seat
- A serious fall that the parent or other caregiver might have prevented
- Physical Abuse
Cerebral Palsy and Brain Development
The fetal brain is especially sensitive to certain types of injury at specific times of gestation. All of the following can lead to cerebral palsy:
- First twenty weeks—During this gestational period, the developing fetal brain is especially sensitive to genetic mutations that can disrupt the normal transmission of brain signals. This type of brain damage is called cerebral dysgenesis and can result from infections, trauma, and high fever in the pregnant mother.
- Between 24 and 36 weeks—The fetus' brain is more susceptible to a condition called periventricular leukomalacia in which tiny holes form in the white matter of the brain and disrupt the flow of brain signals. Infection is one of the causes of this situation.
- Intracranial hemorrhage or bleeding in the brain from blocked or broken blood vessels can lead to a stroke in the fetus. Conditions in the pregnant mother that can lead to fetal stroke include pelvic inflammatory disease and other types of maternal infections; blood clots in the placenta blocking the flow of blood; and sometimes, high blood pressure.
- Excessive lack of oxygen during labor and delivery. This is called intrapartum asphyxia. When the newborn's brain doesn't receive enough oxygen the damage to the tissue can cause cerebral palsy. Reasons for this kind of injury include problems in the mother such as severe low blood pressure, a detached placenta or ruptured uterus. Problems involving the umbilical cord that prevent the free passage of oxygen to the fetus also can cause fetal brain damage leading to cerebral palsy in the child.
Lack of oxygen to an infant's brain, resulting in cerebral palsy may also be a result of a medical mistake. Medical mistakes that may cause severe brain damage can include:
- Failure to properly use forceps or other medical devices during delivery
- Failure to detect signs of fetal stress
- Failure to perform an emergency C-section when appropriate
There are other mistakes that can be made by healthcare providers as well. If you suspect that a healthcare's actions could be the cause of your child's cerebral palsy, you should speak with an attorney who will conduct and investigation and will take action to make sure that the responsible party is held accountable for his/her actions. To learn more, contact our national cerebral palsy lawyer today.