Boston Medical Malpractice Attorneys

What Can Cause Cerebral Palsy at Birth?

March 8, 2023 | Birth Injury

Bringing a child into the world is one of the most joyous experiences in a lifetime, but what if that joy was dampened by the understanding that your child might not be able to enjoy the highest possible quality of life that you envisioned for him or her, but instead must live with disabilities caused during birth?

One of the most serious birth injuries is cerebral palsy, affecting about 1 in every 345 children born in the United States. While the specific cause of cerebral palsy isn’t always known, researchers understand that it’s related to damage sustained to the brain’s development. This damage may occur before birth, during birth, or in the early months after birth when a child’s brain is developing. Anytime something disrupts the normal development of the brain it can result in cerebral palsy. Sadly, this condition is often the result of an injury to the brain sustained during the birth process, making it one of the leading subjects of birth injury medical malpractice lawsuits.

What Is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is actually an umbrella term used to describe a group of neurological disorders with varying degrees of impact depending on the part of the brain that’s damaged, but always affecting muscle movement. It’s a lifelong disability that impacts the person’s ability to move, as well as their posture, and often their learning ability as well. Infants with cerebral palsy may feel floppy or experience sudden stiffening, muscle spasms, and learning delays. Adults with cerebral palsy will have difficulty controlling muscle movements which directly impacts mobility, posture, speech, and many other aspects of life.

While cerebral palsy is treatable and the affected person can improve their quality of life through physical, occupational, and speech therapies, it is not curable. It also doesn’t worsen with age, though without preventative measures, the muscles can stiffen into contractures and cause joint deformities and pain.

Adults with cerebral palsy are at higher risk of heart and lung problems due to limited mobility.

What Causes A Birth Injury Like Cerebral Palsy?

All cerebral palsy cases are caused by brain damage during the brain’s development, but the damage can occur in different ways, sometimes with no known cause. However, our team of specialized cerebral palsy attorneys in Boston have seen in most cases that the cause can be traced to one of the following:

  • A hemorrhage during birth, which causes a lack of blood flow and oxygenation in the brain
  • High blood pressure during the mother’s pregnancy and childbirth
  • Head injuries during birth
  • Neonatal infections
  • Severe, untreated jaundice
  • Meningitis and other severe bacterial or viral infections

The only thing worse than learning your child has a permanent disability like cerebral palsy is learning that it was likely caused by a preventable birth injury.

What Medical Mistakes Can Result in Cerebral Palsy?

Negligence and/or medical malpractice during labor, delivery, and in the postpartum care period may lead to birth injuries like cerebral palsy. Our Boston birth injury attorneys have handled cases in which the following examples of medical negligence resulted in cerebral palsy or other birth injury:

  • Failing to perform a necessary C-section in a timely manner
  • Failing to properly monitor infant heart rate during labor
  • Failing to diagnose and treat disorders of the placenta or umbilical cord during pregnancy, labor, and childbirth
  • Improperly or incorrectly using delivery tools like forceps and vacuum extractors during delivery
  • Surgical or anesthesia errors during C-section delivery
  • Using excessive force during a difficult delivery that physically damages a baby’s head

Any of the above can cause damage to a child’s developing brain, primarily through a lack of oxygen, with cerebral palsy as the result.

Understanding Medical Malpractice and Birth Injuries

Expectant mothers have the right to the highest acceptable standards of medical care for themselves and their unborn children. If a medical provider breaches that standard of care by treating or failing to treat a patient the way a reasonable doctor would in the same circumstances, then they’ve committed an act of medical negligence or malpractice that’s actionable under the law. Reach out to an experienced Boston medical malpractice attorney for legal representation and help with filing a claim.