Cerebral palsy refers to a form of brain damage that can severely affect motor control, coordination, speech and complex thought. In most cases (about 70 percent), cerebral palsy develops during pregnancy as a result of some trauma that injures the brain in vitro. More rarely, cerebral palsy occurs as the result of birthing complications that arise as a baby is being born or in the first minutes of life. Depending on the severity of a case, the condition will likely be diagnosed between the ages of 9 months and 5 years old.
Is Cerebral Palsy Preventable?
When genetic abnormalities do NOT play a role in causing cerebral palsy, the condition is preventable as long as mothers and doctors take measures to minimize the following risk factors:
- breech birth, with the feet delivered before the head
- exposure to toxins, such as mercury
- fetal and maternal infections (while meningitis and other brain infections in infants can cause CP, so too can syphilis or chickenpox in mothers)
- lack of oxygen in the womb or during/after birth
- low birth weight, less than 5.5 lbs.
- premature birth
- prolapsed umbilical cord, when the cord wraps around a baby's neck and cuts off his or her oxygen supply
Additionally, medical professionals can prevent the brain damage that causes cerebral palsy by performing emergency C-sections as soon as the baby's heart rate begins to dramatically changed or any other signs of distress arise.
When Doctors Fail to Use Cerebral Palsy Prevention Methods
In some cases, doctors and nurses make mistakes before, during or after the birthing process that cause cerebral palsy. Some examples of malpractice that may result in birth injuries such as cerebral palsy include:
- excessive use of vacuum extraction
- failure to perform an emergency C-section when one is obviously needed
- failure to diagnose and treat a baby's lack of oxygen, meningitis and/or seizures
- failure to diagnose and treat a mother's high blood pressure, toxemia or infections
- failure to diagnose and treat a prolapsed umbilical cord
- failure to recognize and treat heart rate changes in the mother or baby
- improper use of forceps
What Should You Do
If you believe your child's cerebral palsy could have been prevented, you may wish to speak with an experienced attorney about your rights. Your child will have the right to an education and to treatments that will help with his/her condition. It is important to note that medical mistakes should not go without punishment; if your child's case can be linked to a preventable mistake, the person responsible should be held responsible. Contact an experienced birth injury lawyer to find out how.