While many expectant mothers may wish to know during pregnancy whether or not their child will have cerebral palsy, there is no singular test for it, and diagnosis is commonly made through observation of the child’s development over time.
There are many issues that can arise during pregnancy – some more concerning than others. It’s the responsibility of the pregnant woman’s doctor to monitor the health of the mother and developing baby and take care of medical issues if they arise. Being aware of the risk factors during pregnancy and alerting a physician to any concerns can go a long way to help treat medical threats early.
If the mother’s health is not properly observed, a medical condition can potentially cause harm to the baby or the mother. One such side effect of improper prenatal care to the developing child is a very serious, lifelong condition known as cerebral palsy (CP).
What Exactly is Cerebral Palsy?
Cerebral palsy affects posture and movement. It is a lifelong condition that is caused by damage to a child’s brain during pregnancy, birth, or in his or her first couple years of life. CP can also be accompanied by other challenges such as seizures, learning disabilities, and disturbed vision, hearing, or speech.
Cerebral palsy can develop during pregnancy as a result of several different medical issues. While there are no certain signs of cerebral palsy when pregnant, the onset of any health problems that could cause brain damage to the developing baby must be caught and resolved early to avoid such serious injury.
Risk Factors During Pregnancy
There are many risk factors for cerebral palsy during pregnancy. Some cases of cerebral palsy are linked to infections in the pregnant mother, including rubella (German measles), cytomegalovirus (a viral infection, normally mild), and toxoplasmosis (a typically mild parasitic infection). A bacterial infection of the membranes around the fetus, known as chorioamnionitis, can also lead to cerebral palsy.
If there are problems with the placenta (e.g., placental abruption or placenta previa), which should be diagnosed early on, the baby may not receive sufficient oxygen which could lead to brain damage. Rh disease (Rhesus isoimmunisation) is another risk factor for brain damage, and consequently, cerebral palsy. This condition occurs when the blood types of the mother and fetus are incompatible. It can cause severe jaundice in the child, which can then lead to cerebral palsy if not mitigated.
With proper diagnosis, Rh disease can usually be effectively treated to eliminate harm to the baby and mother. Some blood clotting disorders can also be an issue. Bleeding or excess protein in the mother are also risk factors, as well as hyperthyroidism.
Happily, with proper prenatal care and an attentive and thorough physician in the delivery room, the threat of a baby being born with cerebral palsy is very low.
The most-common cause of cerebral palsy is a birth injury which occurs during a difficult delivery. Cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage to the baby, which most-often occurs due to a disruption of blood flow due to the umbilical cord or child’s head being compressed for extended periods of time during delivery.
If you have a child with cerebral palsy that you believe was the result of a medical error, you may wish to explore your legal options. If your child’s injuries were the direct result of medical malpractice, you have every right to seek compensation from the hospital to cover your child’s medical bills, physical therapy, assistive devices, and more.