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Cerebral Palsy Caused by Prolonged or Difficult Labor

There are cases when physicians can tell that a delivery is going to be particularly difficult, and most doctors will go ahead and order a C-section to try and avoid any such perceived problems. Sometimes, they’ll realize that there’s a problem during a routine visit, and sometimes it happens when the mother is already in labor.

While prolonged labor isn’t in itself necessarily a cause of cerebral palsy, the fact is that any difficulty during delivery can present more opportunities for the child to suffer serious injuries such as fetal asphyxiation or hypoxia, which could result in the development of cerebral palsy.

When a needed C-section is not timely performed, it could be considered medical malpractice. When doctors fail in their duties and provide treatment that falls below the accepted medical standard, parents need to understand all of their options, including the possibility of a medical malpractice claim.


Warning Signs & Causes

Typically, there are various markers which show that labor is progressing in a normal fashion. Should there be an issue that hinders labor, doctors must assess the situation and determine how to proceed with the health of the child and mother in mind.

There are many different signs which can lead to prolonged labor, which must be monitored and mitigated. Here are a few:

  • The mother’s pulse rate may be high on account of stress or dehydration.
  • Her labor pains may be severe as well as prolonged and frequent.
  • Fatigue may prevent the mother from being able to effectively “push” if distressed or exhausted.
  • Dilation of the mother’s large intestine.
  • Back pain (as well as pain on the sides of her body) due to an inordinate amount of pressure placed on ligaments and muscles.
  • A tender uterus.
  • Fetal distress.

Here are two common causes of prolonged labor:

  1. Cephalopelvic Disproportion — This refers to a condition where the mother’s pelvic area is too small for the baby’s head to pass through. Doctors should know to look for signs of cephalopelvic disproportion prior to labor, as such a condition will necessitate a C-section delivery. This condition can occur naturally, but can also be caused by hydrocephalus (a condition which leads to the collection of fluid in a child’s brain) or when mother develops gestational diabetes while pregnant.
  2. Irregular or Abnormal Uterine Contractions — This is perhaps the most-common reason for prolonged labor, and it can be caused by a number of things such as the overstretching of the uterine muscle, an inordinate and excessive amount of amniotic fluid, or due to a drug reaction. Doctors typically stimulate the uterus using synthetic Oxytocin known as Pitocin or Cytotec. That being said, these drugs have been shown to increase the probability of life-threatening side effects such as hypoxia, asphyxia, and even head trauma due to excessively strong uterine muscles.

The Consequences of Delayed Labor

Delayed labor can affect the baby in a number of ways. For starters, the baby may have periods where it won’t get oxygen in a reliable manner, and it may experience irregular heartbeats and an interruption in electrical activity in their brain.

Anesthesia may be useful when it comes to mitigating labor pains; however, it may make a mother complacent and not push when it’s necessary to do so, increasing labor length and the risk of birth complications.

If prolonged labor isn’t resolved, a baby runs the risk of suffering brain damage due to a lack of blood flow or hemorrhaging in the brain, as well as an increased risk of suffering lifelong neurological impairments such as cerebral palsy.

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