Cerebral Palsy from the Birthing Process

Cerebral palsy is a medical condition that involves permanent brain injury that can result from mistakes or accidents that occur during the birthing process. It is not a life threatening condition, but it is characterized by a loss of muscle control and body movements. Some of the problems that can result in cerebral palsy are:

Genetic disorders and problems that reduce the blood supply and the amount of oxygen that the brain of the fetus gets during the first six months of pregnancy can cause cerebral palsy. This affects how the child’s brain develops while in the womb and by the time it is discovered through ultrasound it is often too late for an abortion, if this is the route parents choose to take. An oxygen deficiency can also occur at birth if the amount of oxygen the baby’s brain gets is too low. This can result in a condition called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. If the mother’s blood is incompatible with that of the fetus, brain damage can also result. This is referred to as the Rh factor and is commonly manifested in the mother’s cells attacking those of the fetus. Severe physical trauma to the mother during delivery can cause the fetus to have cerebral palsy and repeated water and urinary tract infections during pregnancy should be of concern to the woman’s doctor.

Cerebral palsy cases involving brain injury at birth make up about 10 – 15% of all cerebral palsy cases. However there have been occasions when mistakes made by doctors and other health care practitioners have led to brain damage in an otherwise healthy infant. Some infants have seizures shortly after birth. Sometimes these go unnoticed and unless they are treated appropriately, brain damage and cerebral palsy can result.

Very often doctors are reluctant to perform C-sections to born a baby, preferring that the mother born the baby on her own. Waiting too long to make the decision to remove the baby from the womb can also result in a brain damage. The equipment that is used in a delivery room can also lead to brain damage if it is used to excess or is used improperly, such as a vacuum extractor or delivery forceps.

Some health care professionals do not respond in a timely manner to signs that the fetus is in distress in the womb. Doctors have to be diligent in recognizing signs that the fetus may be entangled in the umbilical cord, which reduces the oxygen supply to the brain. Very often the mother does not recognize these signs either and therefore does not report them to her doctor. It is of utmost importance to carefully monitor a baby’s vital signs following birth and to take whatever measures are necessary to treat jaundice in a newborn. Failure to take care of these matters can lead to brain damage.

There are many malpractice claims currently before the courts involving cerebral palsy caused by mistakes made in prenatal care and in the delivery room. Some of these cases are also the result of cerebral palsy being caused by the improper use of CPR following birth, excessive use of forceps, problems arising from emergency C-sections and doing special testing such as X-rays on the infant shortly after birth.

Most hospitals have taken measures to ensure that all the staff on maternity floors and in delivery rooms are trained specifically to recognize signs and symptoms associated with cerebral palsy. At one time, specialists were only called in to assist in deliveries in extreme cases. Now it is more often the specialist who does the delivery because of the likelihood of a problem developing.

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