When Avoidable Medical Mistakes or Malpractice Cause Cerebral Palsy at Birth

For new parents, a baby’s birth is an exciting time. They anticipate the big day hoping nothing goes wrong during delivery. But sometimes, medical mistakes are made that can harm your baby. Your doctors and nurses are responsible for your care and your baby’s care before, during, and after the birth. If the appropriate procedures aren’t followed, a baby might be born with permanent brain damage, including cerebral palsy.

Approximately 20 percent of those children diagnosed with cerebral palsy developed the condition due to a brain injury that occurred during the birthing process. And paying for this disability is expensive—an average lifetime cost of nearly $1 million over the cost of someone without cerebral palsy.

What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a physical disability that affects movement, balance, and posture. It is a common childhood motor disorder, affecting 1 in 500 children. The symptoms and severity of cerebral palsy can vary greatly from person to person. There are four main types of cerebral palsy:

  • Spastic. Spastic cerebral palsy is the most common form. Increased muscle tone leads to stiff, awkward movements. This type affects muscles in groups, commonly impacting either one side of the body, the legs, or all four limbs, as well as the core and face.
  • Dyskinetic. Dyskinetic cerebral palsy is characterized by uncontrollable movements. Muscle tone can change from too tight to too lose on a rapid basis and results in jerky or writhing movements of the hands, arms, legs, and feet.
  • Ataxic. Ataxic cerebral palsy results in unsteady walking and difficulty with movements that require great control. This type affects balance, coordination, and depth perception.
  • Mixed. Mixed cerebral palsy combines symptoms of more than one of the previous types. The most common form of mixed CP is spastic-dyskinetic.

Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal development or damage to the brain. This can happen in utero, during birth, or at any time during the first few years of life. The vast majority of cerebral palsy cases are congenital, meaning they occurred before or during birth. Often, a specific cause cannot be identified, but some known causes include genetic factors, medical condition of the mother, premature birth, infection, and injury. While these causes are often unavoidable, there are situations in which the disability is the result of a medical mistake or malpractice.

Preventable Causes of Cerebral Palsy

Though these instances are rare, there are preventable causes of cerebral palsy. These causes may include:

  • Lack of oxygen. Asphyxia and oxygen deprivation are estimated to only account for 6 to 8 percent of cerebral palsy cases, but it can happen. Umbilical cord issues, breech delivery, maternal shock, and a prolonged delivery can all cause a lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain.
  • Delayed delivery or C-section. When a doctor ignores warning signs and waits too long to deliver a baby, complications can arise.
  • Ignored signs of fetal distress. If doctors overlook signs of distress in the baby, they may be unprepared to respond to the baby’s needs after birth in a timely manner.
  • Improper use of instruments. The baby can suffer brain injuries if a doctor uses medical instruments unnecessarily or inappropriately. This is most commonly seen when forceps or a vacuum is used during the birth.
  • Failure to recognize potential risks before birth. There are a number of risk factors that medical professionals should address with the mother. These include maternal age, exposure to toxins, and general health.

It may be hard for parents to know if their child suffered due to any of these issues. Some other warning signs include bruising or discoloration on the baby, the need for breathing assistance at birth, or a stay in a neonatal intensive care unit. In some cases, symptoms of cerebral palsy present themselves later.

It is important to note that these signs are not definitive, and most cases of cerebral palsy are unavoidable. In every case, a thorough review of the baby’s medical history and delivery is necessary. If you suspect that medical malpractice caused your child’s cerebral palsy, you have to the right to seek further information and potentially take action. The experienced legal team at Tapella Law can help. Call us toll free at 855-522-5291.