As the most common form of cerebral palsy, congenital cerebral palsy is an incurable form of brain damage that results in mildly to severely impaired cognition, speech, coordination and general movement. In the most severe cases, cerebral palsy patients also suffer from epilepsy, mental retardation and paraplegia or quadriplegia. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the United Cerebral Palsy group (UCP) reports that as many as 800,000 Americans are currently living with some form of cerebral palsy. With 1 in every 278 infants in the U.S. diagnosed with cerebral palsy each year, approximately 8,000 newborns being diagnosed with cerebral palsy annually.
Cerebral palsy can be caused by a number of factors, and in many cases, the precise causes are indeterminable. Generally, however, causes of cerebral palsy include:
- Maternal infections, such as the measles, chickenpox, toxoplasmosis or syphilis
- Fetal infections, such as meningitis or other brain infections
- Fetal stroke
- Lack of oxygen during the birthing process
- Severe jaundice
- Medical malpractice, such as improper use of forceps, failure to perform emergency C-sections or failure to treat any of the above-listed birthing complications
Should medical mistakes play a role in causing cerebral palsy, victims and their families will have a viable legal claim and, as a result, may be entitled to a settlement to compensate them for their injuries and losses. Injured parties can get a free, thorough evaluation of their case.
Why is Cerebral Palsy Congenital?
Congenital cerebral palsy refers to a form of cerebral palsy that is present at birth. While congenital cerebral palsy may be caused by genetic abnormalities, it can also be caused by some trauma that takes places while the infant is developing in the womb or as he is being born.
According to the CDC, 70 percent of all CP cases are diagnosed as congenital cerebral palsy. An additional 20 percent of CP cases are classified as congenital CP due to brain damage that takes place during the birthing process. The remaining 10 percent of CP cases develop as a result of some trauma that occurs in the first months of an infant's life.
Risk Factors for Congenital Cerebral Palsy
Babies that have the highest risk of sustaining cerebral palsy include those who:
- Are born breeched (feet first, rather than head first)
- Are born prematurely
- Are born severely underweight (less than 5.5 lbs)
- Are exposed to toxins (such as mercury) during the mother's pregnancy
- Are not treated for severe jaundice, meningitis or stroke
- Have a prolapsed umbilical cord (meaning that their umbilical cord is wrapped around their neck and is cutting off the oxygen supply)
- Lack of oxygen before, during or after birth
Additionally, infants will be more likely to be born with cerebral palsy if the mother has certain health problems, such as epilepsy, thyroid problems or mental retardation.
Please contact our cerebral palsy lawyers for more information about the legal options you have if your family member has cerebral palsy.