Cerebral palsy, in almost all cases, is a condition people are born with. The disorder results from damage to or malformations in the developing brain, whether in the fetus, the newborn, or the young child. The condition is much more likely to occur in premature babies.
Modern technology in the neonatal intensive care unit is allowing more preterm, low birth weight babies to survive. But, the more premature an infant is, or the lower the newborn's birth weight, the greater the risk of developing cerebral palsy.
Some progress has been made in stopping early uterine contractions that might lead to premature birth. Research has shown that giving pregnant mothers magnesium sulfate or Epsom salts stops contractions during premature labor, thus delaying birth of the baby. A 2009 study also indicated the compound had a protective effect on the fetus' developing brain and prevented the occurrence of cerebral palsy.
Cerebral Palsy and Premature Births
Infants are at greater risk of developing cerebral palsy if they have:
- Early preterm birth—before the mother reaches her 37th week of pregnancy
- Low birth weight—less than five and a half pounds at birth
- Oxygen deprivation due to a stressful labor and delivery
Other problems linked to cerebral palsy and premature birth include:
- A low Apgar score, the rating system used to grade the newborn's condition within the first ten to twenty minutes of being born
- Severe jaundice in the premature baby that is not treated
- Breech birth in which the baby is born feet first
- Multiple births when there are twins, triplets, or more infants born
- Mistakes made by doctors during the birthing process
Cerebral Palsy and Death for the Premature Baby
A decrease in the death rate in premature babies has coincided with an increase in the number of babies born with cerebral palsy. Advances in technology in neonatal care are allowing more babies to be born more prematurely. The result is more infants are being born with cerebral palsy.
The risk of death or cerebral palsy is significantly increased in a surviving twin after the other twin dies. Other complications that increase the chance of the premature baby dying or having cerebral palsy are:
- Mother's viral infections (toxoplasmosis, German measles, cytomegalovirus and herpes) can infect the womb and placenta
- Rh incompatibility between the mother and fetus (usually a problem in developing countries and not the United States.)
- Mother's exposure to toxic materials during pregnancy
For more information, or if you would like an attorney to conduct an investigation to determine if your premature baby's cerebral palsy could have been prevented, contact our birth injury lawyers today. We work with experts who can help us identify the cause of cerebral palsy and other birth injuries; when medical mistakes can be proven, we will work hard to get a financial recovery for the family to ensure the highest quality of care for the affected child.