Birth injuries: What every parent should know about cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a type of neurological disorder that affects children’s movement, muscle tone and posture, which may be caused by doctor errors.

All parents in Illinois hope that their children will be born healthy and develop normally. However, there are a number of conditions, which may present early during children's lives, including cerebral palsy. According to WebMD, approximately 10,000 babies are diagnosed with this type of motor disorder each year across the U.S. While there is still much to be learned about the exact causes of cerebral palsy, some cases may be the result of medical negligence and doctor errors.

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a group of neurological disorders, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The conditions in this group affect children's movement, muscle tone or posture. In general, cerebral palsy is developed as a result of abnormalities that occur during the brain's development, or injuries that are sustained while the brain is developing.

There are four primary types of cerebral palsy - spasticity, dyskinesia, ataxia and mixed. The forms of this condition are classified based on the primary movement disorder that a child experiences. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spasticity is characterized by stiff muscles, while uncontrollable movements are generally associated with the dyskinesia form of cerebral palsy. Ataxia typically involves poor coordination and balance. Children with mixed cerebral palsy exhibit symptoms that are associated with two or more of the other forms of the disorder.

Common symptoms of cerebral palsy?

Each child is different and, based on the severity and form of their condition, they may experience a range of symptoms. The Mayo Clinic points out that some of the most common signs of cerebral palsy include the following:

  • Favoring one side of the body
  • Involuntary movements or tremors
  • Muscle tone variations
  • Issues with sucking or eating
  • Writhing, slow movements
  • Issues with precise movements

While each child will develop at their own pace, there are certain developmental milestones that are commonly reached at around the same ages. If children experience delays in reaching their motor skill milestones, it may be an indication that there is something going on. Additionally, delays in speech development may also be a symptom of cerebral palsy.

What causes cerebral palsy?

In many cases, cerebral palsy develops as a result of brain damage that occurs before or during birth, or soon after a baby is born. The CDC points out that one common risk factor for this condition is maternal infections . If doctors fail to diagnose or appropriately treat such infections, the risk may be increased. A lack of oxygen to infants' brains, is also a common risk factor for cerebral palsy. This may be the result of prolonged labor or health care providers failing to monitor infants' conditions, among other factors.

Additionally, head injuries sometimes play a role in the development of cerebral palsy. Infants may suffer brain damage as a result of being forcefully pulled out of the birth canal. The use of instruments during birth, including forceps and vacuums, may also contribute to causing cerebral palsy.

Seek legal guidance

Depending on the severity of their conditions, children in Illinois, and elsewhere, who suffer from cerebral palsy may require lifelong medical treatment and care. If they developed the disorder as a result of doctor errors, the medical professionals responsible may be held financially liable. Thus, parents whose children have cerebral palsy may consider consulting with an attorney to discuss their options, and whether or not their child's condition might have been prevented.