Cerebral palsy is a condition that results from a brain injury or abnormality that occurs during fetal development, the birthing process, or within the first several months of the infant’s life. Though doctors have yet to fully understand all of the causes of early brain damage, medical science has identified a number of cerebral palsy causes and risk factors:
Maternal infections may increase the risk of cerebral palsy by as much as nine times and include:
• Urinary tract infection (UTI)
• Bladder or kidney infection
• Sepsis (an infection of the bloodstream)
• Chorioamnionitis, a uterus infection
Because maternal infections are a known and often preventable cause of cerebral palsy, pregnant women should always seek medical treatment as soon as they believe they have an infection.
The following prenatal/neonatal infections may increase the risk of cerebral palsy:
• Bacterial meningitis
• Viral encephalitis
• Group B streptococcal infection
• Herpes group B
It is not known exactly how these infections cause cerebral palsy; however, evidence suggests that prenatal infections may lead to preterm birth—another risk factor for cerebral palsy. Other evidence suggests that infections trigger brain damage and thus cause cerebral palsy.
Rh incompatibility and jaundice are additional complications that may cause cerebral palsy in the developing infant.
Preterm birth (occurring before 37 weeks gestation) and low birth weight are known to significantly increase the risk of cerebral palsy. Babies who are born preterm are especially vulnerable and are more likely to suffer health complications and require hospitalization.
Risk factors for preterm birth include certain maternal infections, stress, previous pregnancy with preterm labor, multiple births such as twins or triplets, smoking or alcohol/drug use, and cervical or uterine abnormalities.
While many cases of cerebral palsy are congenital—that is, present at birth—some instances of cerebral palsy are due to damage to the brain during the birthing process itself. Birth injuries are largely preventable but may happen when medical staff fail to:
• Diagnose and treat maternal infections
• Recognize and respond to fetal distress
• Perform a C-section in a timely manner
• Treat jaundice in the newborn
• Ensure adequate oxygen supply
• Properly use equipment such as forceps or vacuum extraction
Medical malpractice is not necessarily intentional, but the consequences can be devastating nevertheless. When medical malpractice causes cerebral palsy, families may be able to file a lawsuit to obtain compensation for treatment costs and other losses.
If you had a complicated labor and delivery and your child was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, medical malpractice may be to blame. There is no cure for cerebral palsy and lifetime treatment costs average more than $500,000. Filing a medical malpractice lawsuit may be an option for you and your family to receive the money necessary to pay for cerebral palsy treatment. You may also be entitled to money for your pain and suffering, your child’s loss of earning capacity, and various additional costs related to the cerebral palsy.